Warwick L. (Nick) Nicholas

(April 3, 1926 - May 5, 2010)

Warwick Nicholas was born in England and, as a child, lived in both England and Canada. He served in the military during the Second World War and then studied  zoology  at the University of Liverpool, graduating in 1951. He completed a doctorate at the Liverpool Institute of Tropical Diseases working on insect-vectored diseases in West Africa. During that period he became interested in nematodes and also parasitic worms of the Acanthocephala. Dr. Nicholas continued to work on nematode parasites of vertebrates and developed an interest in the emerging field of nutritional requirements and culture of nematodes. 

Dr. Nicholas was Lecturer in the Department of Zoology, University of Liverpool from 1955 until 1960.  In 1956, he established the first axenic cultures of both Bristol and Bergerac strains of Caenorhabditis elegans (Fatt, 1961; Nicholas and McEntegard, 1957). In 1957 and 1958, on leave from University of Liverpool, he was a Traveling Fellow of the British Medical Research Council (MRC) funded by a Rockefeller grant.  During the tenure of the fellowship, he worked with Drs. Ellsworth Dougherty and Eder Hansen in the Laboratory of Comparative Biology at the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute in Richmond, California.  Among other things, they were trying to determine the nature of undefined components Rb and Cb needed for axenic culture of C. briggsae (Dougherty et al, 1959; Nicholas et al, 1959).The Traveling Fellow appointment had important consequences in the evolution of developmental and molecular biology.  Sydney Brenner at MRC was considering the next steps to take in translating the successes of Watson and Crick into a greater understanding of "life".  The knowledge and skills of Nicholas, and the collegial conduit with Dougherty, were important resources for Brenner. 

In 1960, Dr. Nicholas joined the Australian National University in Canberra where he continued to work on the culturing and nutrition of free-living nematodes, vertebrate-parasitic

nematodes and Acanthocephala.  Also, their ecology, behavior, epidemiology, biochemistry and taxonomy. He described 35 new species and five new genera of nematodes and wrote numerous papers on nematode biology and ecology.  His 1975 book "The Biology of Free-living Nematodes" remains a classic and an important resource for those working on the ecology of nematodes. He was an editor of the Australasian Nematologists Newsletter and was a founder of the Australian Society for Parasitology.


(Partially adapted from an obituary published in Nematology 2010 by Mike Hodda).


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