Remembering Larry Hench (1938-2015)

In Featured, In Memoriam, News

Professor Emeritus Larry L. Hench passed away on Dec. 16, 2015 at his home in Ft. Meyers, FL. He was 77. Dr. Hench taught materials science engineering at UF for 32 years. During that time he invented Bioglass, the first man-made material to bond with living tissues. Bioglass is a unique range of soda-calcia-phosphate-silica glasses. Hench’s concept behind it ­– of bioactive bonding – pioneered the field of biomedical materials and revolutionized a new approach to repair and regeneration in the body. Bioglass and its derivatives are still used extensively around the world in the repair of bones, joints and teeth.

“Larry was a pivotal and important figure in our department for many years, and with everything he did, was a true renaissance man,” said James Baciak, professor and chair of UF’s department of materials science and engineering, noting that in addition to his work with Bioglass, Hench’s research was pivotal in solving problems related to nuclear waste storage. “He will be greatly missed.”

Hench and his contributions to materials research were recently featured on the Discovery UK series Future Now: Scientific Breakthroughs Shaping Our Lives. The episode, “Repairing the Human Body,” describes how Hench – who at the time was making nonreactive ceramic materials for space missions – met a Vietnam War surgeon who was eager to find a bone graft material that the human body would not reject. It was 1969, and Bioglass soon made history.

After retiring from UF, Hench joined Imperial College London, as chair of their Ceramic Materials Department. At Imperial he co-founded and co-directed the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Centre for 10 years. He also authored a series of children’s books featuring Boing-Boing the Bionic Cat, and created educational materials such as workbooks, experiment books and hands-on kits to stimulate interest in science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM).

A celebration of Dr. Hench’s life will be held at the Florida Museum of Natural History on February 12, 2016 from 5:30-8:30 pm. All are welcome.

Read more about Dr. Hench and his accomplishments in his obituary.