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Obituary: World-famous geneticist who led research into spina bifida


Renowned: Professor Norman Nevin

Renowned: Professor Norman Nevin

Renowned: Professor Norman Nevin

Professor Norman Nevin, who has died at 79, was a world-renowned geneticist and one of Northern Ireland's foremost medical and scientific brains.

He was Emeritus Professor of Medical Genetics at Queen's University where he was first of all a high-grade student.

"During his professional life Norman contributed in a wide range of ways to the understanding of complex and challenging issues including spina bifida," said his friend John Wilson. "He was an amazing man both in the medical world and in his church, where he believed passionately that the Bible was the inspired word of God.

"And in spite of his international reputation he had a boundless energy for helping people." Prof Nevin was an international leader in the field of genetics. He specialised at QUB in research into the use of folic acid in reducing the risks of spina bifida and the identification of the gene that causes cystic fibrosis.

He served on national and international committees including the UK Government's Gene Therapy Advisory Committee, which he chaired from 1996 until 2006, briefing Government ministers.

His vital research earned Norman an OBE and when he retired in 2001 he was appointed Professor Emeritus in Medical Genetics at Queen's.

Apart from his medical and scientific careers, Prof Nevin was a member of Victoria Memorial Hall and the Crescent Church in Belfast, where he was an elder for 36 years.

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"He was a gifted teacher and preacher who saw no conflict between his Christian faith and his scientific research and knowledge," said Crescent elder David Farrell. "He argued that creationism is from a scientific as well as a philosophical point of view, an alternative to the evolution theory."

An old boy of the Belfast Boys' Model and Grosvenor High School, Norman married Jean, his childhood sweetheart, while he was at QUB and they worked together for many years – Jean was a cytogeneticist in the City Hospital.

Professor Nevin, who is survived by Jean, daughter Glynis, son Paul and two grandchildren, was buried in Blaris Cemetery, Lisburn, after a funeral service in the Crescent Church conducted by elders David Bingham and David Farrell.

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