John Clements was born in Auburn, New York, and graduated from Auburn Senior High School in 1941. He entered college at Cornell, Ithaca, New York in 1941 and Cornell Medical School in 1944, graduating as an M.D. in 1947. Following a tenure from 1947 to 1949, as a Research Assistant in Physiology at Cornell Medical School, under Eugene DuBois, he served 12 years with the Medical Research Division, Army Chemical Center, Maryland. In 1951 he became a Researcher in Pulmonary Physiology, at the Army Chemical Center, and remained there until 1961, when he became a senior Research Associate at the Cardiovascular Research Institute, UCSF. He has spent his time since doing research in and teaching pulmonary biology. In 1987 he was appointed Julius H. Comroe, Jr. Professor of Pulmonary Biology, a distinguished title of which he is proud. His work has included lectures in Physiology and Medicine, teaching and mentoring primarily research fellows, and a career leadership role in pulmonary research.
Dr. Clements has had a very impressive scientific career. After his earlier work on various aspects of respiratory physiology, he began studying pulmonary surfactant in the beginning of the 1950s and has remained in this area since. Surfactant is a lipid layer that covers the inner surface of the lung and maintains pulmonary stability. First, Dr. Clements elucidated much of the physical chemical properties of surfactant, his most significant achievement being the demonstration that lungs contain surfactant and developing the theory of its stabilizing effects on pulmonary airspaces. Secondly, he has devised a simple test called "foam test", to evaluate the presence of surfactant in the mothers utero during late gestation and therefore assess fetal lung maturity. Finally, he has produced a synthetic surfactant in collaboration with Burroughs Wellcome Laboratories Incorporation, called Exosurf, to treat neonates with respiratory distress. Large trials in the United States and Canada have demonstrated a dramatic increase in survival in infants treated with this product. All in all, his contributions in this area have been nothing less than remarkable. His work on surfactant has brought him national and international recognition. The honours and awards he has received are too numerous to mention. Perhaps two of them illustrate Dr. Clements' scientific stature. He has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States since 1974, and in 1983 he has received the prestigious Gairdner Foundation International Award.
Dr. Clements is also interested in many other activities. With a profound renaissance mind, he reads intensely. Perhaps the most outstanding of his other activities is the piano. He plays better than most amateur musicians I know of. He likes to do duets, he playing the piano and his wife Margot singing, an enviable treat for the fortunate listeners.
Mr. Chancellor, it is an honour and a privilege for me to ask, in the name of the Senate of The University of Manitoba, that you confer on John Allen Clements, the degree of Doctor of Science, (honouris causa).
-citation delivered by Arnold Naimark, President, University of Manitoba