Prof Maria De Sousa (Dec), Portugal

In paying tribute to Prof de Sousa, Professor Gra├ža Porto, said ‘ She will be remembered as one of the greatest scientists of her generation. She always put science ahead of a life of personal comfort. She was never concerned with positions or titles, but her influence as a leader was inevitable, such was her visionary spirit in all areas – in science, teaching and even in personal relationships.

Prof de Sousa graduated in Medicine in 1963 and had a long and distinguished career in scientific research working in England, Scotland and the USA as well as Portugal. From 1978 she began to dedicate herself to the study of a possible function of the immune system in protecting against iron toxicity. This led her to study the immune system in patients with a genetic disease of iron overload – hereditary hemochromatosis, a disease more frequent in the North of Portugal than in the rest of the country. In 1985 Prof de Sousa created a research team across three institutions of the University of Porto to investigate haemochromatosis.

In addition to many academic awards for her enormous contributions to scientific research and academia in Portugal, Prof de Sousa was recognised with three different presidents of Portugal awarding her the highest possible decorations for her service to the country. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa acknowledged her as ‘someone who had a broad view of the world, who was not confined to academia, but who enthusiastically embraced the relationship between knowledge and society, science and art’.