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Anita E. Hardings 1952Ц1995

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Anita E. Hardmg: 1952-1995
Dr Anita E. Harding, corresponding member of the
American Neurological Association and Editorial Board
member of the Annals of Neuroloa, died on September
11, 1995, of bowel cancer. Her death occurred 3 weeks
before she was scheduled to become the Head of the University Department of Clinical Neurology at the Institute
of Neurology and the National Hospital for Neurology
and Neurosurgery, Queen Square, London. The date of
her death was also 6 days before her 43rd birthday.
Anita grew up in the midland city of Birmingham,
where she attended the King Edward VI High School
for Girls from the age of 11. Thereafter, she matriculated at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine
in London, graduating in 1975. Intensive training in
medicine and clinical neurology, interspersed with periods of research in clinical genetics fellowships, all
mainly in London, occupied Anita for the next 8 years,
until she was appointed Lecturer in Neurology in May
1983. She spent the following year acquiring the techniques of molecular genetics in whirlwind stints in
many of the great laboratories, including those of Peter
Harper in Cardiff, Guiseppe Attardi at Cal Tech,
James Gusella at Massachusetts General Hospital,
Thomas Bird in Seattle, and Allen Roses at Duke. She
returned to London and the National Hospital to start
the program in clinical neurogenetics in 1984, which
she led most successfully until her death I1 years later.
Anita’s career was nothing short of meteoric. In rapid
succession she advanced to Reader in Clinical Neurology at the Institute of Neurology, to Consultant Neurologist, to Senior Lecturer in Neurology, and then to
a Personal Chair in 1990. She was the first woman ever
in Britain to become a Professor of Clinical Neurology.
Her clinical skills and breadth of knowledge were
legendary, and her research contributions were even
more prodigious. She authored or co-authored four
monographs, including the landmark publication on
hereditary ataxias, nearly 200 peer-reviewed journal articles, 43 review articles, and 65 chapters and presented
over 100 papers at national and international meetings.
Anita served on the editorial boards of 10 journals and
regularly reviewed papers and books for two score
more. She served on innumerable committees, delivered dozens of named lectures, and performed indefatigably as a visiting professor. She participated in the
affairs of numerous national and international professional associations, including her key organizing role in
the European Neurological Society during its infancy.
The thrust of her workwas in the clinical and molecular
genetics of ataxias and neuromuscular disorders. Important advances to which Anita made major contributions
included the elucidation of the role of vitamin E deficiency in specific spinocerebellar disorders, the role of mitochondrial DNA mutations in mitochondria1 myopathies, widely accepted classifications of inherited spinocerebellar disorders and also hereditary neuropathies, and
dozens of other clinical-molecular correlative studies involving inherited movement disorders, dementing illnesses, myopathies, neuropathies, and myelopathies.
Anita, in her brief career, became an acknowledged
world authority in neurogenetics. Her expertise was
sought after by colleagues throughout the world whenever difficult problems arose. In part, this was because
of her outstanding clinical skills, but her humanity and
compassion were also attractants. She combined the
rare gifts of a brilliant academic with those of a caring
doctor. She was honest, straightforward, and kind to
those with the misfortune to be ill. Not surprisingly,
she gathered around her a large group of young scientific and medical graduates who had the desire to learn
from an exciting and entirely approachable teacher. In
the last weeks of her life, Anita was at pains to spend
time with her students and friends, discussing their
problems and futures, rather than dwelling on her own,
all the while exercising her infectious sense of humor.
Anita worked hard and played hard. She and her
husband of 18 years, P.K. Thomas, were renowned for
their enjoyment of life-good food, good wine, and
good friends. She insisted on drinking doplo espressos
even after she learned that this could be a minor insult
to Italian male hosts. She and P.K. skied ferociously
despite her damaged neck, and they trekked in the Himalayas, living in the rough and ignoring the usual
“gut rot.” Anita and P.K. disproved the belief that two
individuals in the same field cannot thrive. Both did,
for their knowledge and intellects combined to forge
a formidable professional and social partnership.
Anita Harding was a renowned authority on neurogenetics and the most outstanding British neurologist
of her generation; she was also a dynamo, a W ~ T a, boll
vivant, a sage, and a true friend to many.
C. D. Marsden
A. K Asbury
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