Dr Geoffrey Cope obituary

On 16th March 2023, Dr Geoffrey Cope passed away peacefully at his home in Dore. He was a long-serving member of the Biomedical Science academic staff as a leading researcher, expert in electron microscopes and a valued teacher.

Dr Geoffrey Cope smiling at the camera

After graduating in Zoology from Leicester University in the mid-1960s, Geoffrey joined what was then the Department of Anatomy as a PhD student with Robert Barer (the Arthur Jackson Chair of Anatomy and Biology) and co-supervised by Mike Williams. He formally became a member of the University of Sheffield academic staff in 1968. Dr Cope remained in the department as it amalgamated with Physiology into the Department of Biomedical Science, where he then stayed through to his official retirement in 2007(although he returned to teach for several years thereafter).

Dr Cope played a central role in teaching anatomy and histology to pre-clinical medical students. He was a highly supportive, reliable colleague and always willing to help solve the various problems that inevitably arose in managing a busy department. In the 1990s, he led a major re-organisation of the teaching of anatomy to take advantage of the new facilities and new technology that were becoming available at that time, such as the Perak Laboratories which was expanded to provide teaching for up to 400 students. He also contributed significantly from the late 1980s to the renewal and refurbishment of the Electron Microscopy (EM) Suite and was closely involved in the acquisition of new electron
microscopes. This ensured that the University retained world-leading biological EM capabilities that were key to many research projects.

Dr Geoffrey Cope's research included studies of kidney biology, where he made important contributions to transplantation and dialysis in groundbreaking clinical collaborations. He had a prodigious memory, manifest especially in his recollection of the data he had been involved with over his career, and was occasionally critical of those who did not have this talent. For example, he was quick to note the problem of institutional amnesia, routinely providing cases from the past where policies were tried, found to fail before being forgotten about, only to re-emerge years later as the "next best thing”. “If only we would keep minutes……”, he would say with a wry smile.

He was passionate about his engagement with students and they enjoyed his teaching. With careful regard to the rules around what is now known as the National Student Survey, he always managed to find a circumstance where a large box of Cadbury’s Roses would appear in a lecture theatre around the time teaching assessments were undertaken. He would have laughed at the correlation between the reduction in the number of students actually attending lectures and the reduction in the number of Cadbury’s Roses in a box. “Correlation is one thing …..” He would have said.

Geoffrey was warm and professional in all his dealings with colleagues. His gentle admonitions were always delivered with kindness and a sense of humour. He cared deeply about the students and was unassuming and unselfish. Outside of work, he was active in the scouting movement and remained a trustee with the Dore Scout Group. Former EM Unit colleagues meet every Christmas for a lunch, and we were pleased to catch up with Geoff in December 2022 when he was in excellent form.

He will be greatly missed by all who worked and studied with him.