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Robert Royston Amos (Robin) Coombs

Born 1921
Died 2006

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British veterinarian and immunologist, born January 9, 1921, London; died February 25, 2006.

Biography of Robert Royston Amos (Robin) Coombs

Robert Royston Amos ("Robin") Coombs was born in London and brought up in Cape Town, South Africa. He returned to Britain and studied veterinary medicine at Edinburgh University. In 1943 he went up to King's College, Cambridge where he commenced work on a doctorate, which he gained in 1947. Before finishing his doctorate, he developed and published methods to detect antibodies with Dr Arthur Mourant and Dr Rob Race in 1945. This, his first discovery is the test now referred to as the Coombs test, which according to the legend he first devised while travelling on the train.

Coombs became a professor and researcher at the Department of Pathology of University of Cambridge, becoming a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, and a founder of its Division of Immunology. He was appointed the fourth Quick Professor of Biology in 1966 and continued to work at Cambridge University until 1988.

He received honorary doctoral degrees by the University of Guelph, Canada, and the University of Edinburgh, Scotland and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of the United Kingdom (1965), a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.
He was married to Anne Blomfield, his first graduate student. They had a son and a daughter.

The Coombs test, which he developed and published together with Dr Arthur Mourant and Dr Rob Race in 1945, has formed the base of a large number of laboratory investigations in the fields of hematology and immunology.

Together with professor Philip George Howthern Gell, he developed a classification of immune mechanisms of tissue injury, now known as the "Gell-Coombs classification", comprising four types of reactions.

Together with W.E. Parish and A.F. Wells, Coombs put forward an explanation of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) as an anaphylactic reaction to dairy proteins.

In 1952 he married Anne Blomfield, his first doctoral student, who survives him with their son and daughter.

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