A Tribute to Mark Rance

The following tribute was written by Andy Byrd, Walter Chazin, and Art Palmer:

It is with great sadness that we inform the magnetic resonance community of the passing of our colleague and friend Mark Rance, on June 22, 2020. Mark was a quiet, powerful intellect who made numerous seminal contributions to our field. He was also one of the gentlest and caring of friends and colleagues. We miss him very much and will regret missing out on contributions that were still in the making.

Mark was born and raised in the small town of Blenheim, Ontario (Canada) and entered the magnetic resonance field as a Ph.D. student in Physics with Ken Jeffrey at the University of Guelph. He was among the early contributors to the use of solid-state 2H and 14N NMR studies of membranes. Following an initial postdoctoral period at the National Research Council in Ottawa, where he became a friend and collaborator with Andy Byrd working on solid-state NMR of membranes, Mark moved to a unique postdoctoral position between the laboratories of Richard Ernst and Kurt Wüthrich, both at the ETH, to test the most recently developed NMR experiments on proteins. This collaboration brought us the DQF-COSY experiment and many other significant contributions to the development of the field of protein NMR spectroscopy. Following his time in Zürich, Mark joined the powerhouse NMR Center at the Scripps Research Institute, led by Peter Wright, and in turn helped recruit ETH postdoc colleague, collaborator and friend Walter Chazin. It was there that he collaborated intensively with the cadre of postdoctoral scientists that became his co-authors of the well-known textbook “Protein NMR Spectroscopy”: John Cavanagh, Wayne Fairbrother, Nick Skelton, and Arthur Palmer. In 1996 Mark moved to the University of Cincinnati, where he joined his life partner Pearl Tsang and established an NMR Center in the School of Medicine. Mark made seminal contributions to bio-NMR spectroscopy throughout his career, including revealing the principles of sensitivity enhancement in TOCSY and heteronuclear correlation experiments, leading to what is commonly referred to as the Rance-Kay method. In addition, his career-long interest in NMR spin relaxation has been fundamental to our understanding of conformational dynamics in proteins, most recently through relaxation dispersion spectroscopy. Mark impacted so many areas of NMR spectroscopy, yet always remained a very low-key and kind person, setting an excellent example for all. Everyone fortunate to know Mark has been enriched by his presence in our field, his wisdom, and his friendship.