Varro E. Tyler, internationally renowned expert in the field of pharmacognosy and botanical medicine, died Aug. 22. He was 74.
Tyler was the author or co-author of more than 20 books and 300 scientific and educational articles. He had a 30-year career at Purdue University. He was hired as the dean of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmacal Sciences in 1966; in 1979 he was promoted to dean of the School of Pharmacy, Nursing and Health Sciences. From 1986 until 1991 he was the executive vice president for academic affairs, and in 1991 he was named the Lilly Distinguished Professor of Pharmacognosy. He retired in 1996.
Tyler, known to his friends as Tip, was an expert on the safety and therapeutic efficacy of herbal products and was a popular speaker on the topic.
"Tip had a magical ability to explain something scientific in a way that made it understandable to those outside the field," said Marilyn Barrett, Ph.D., of Pharmacognosy Consulting Services in Redwood City, Calif.
"He was committed to herbal medicine—if the herbs had been shown through a rational scientific process to have safety and efficacy according to known scientific principles," said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council in Austin, Texas.
"Tip championed the middle ground," said Steven Dentali, senior director of botanical sciences at Nutricia in Boca Raton, Fla., an operating group of Royal Numico.
"I am sure he was not thrilled by the lack of support and expression of disappointment he received from many of his academic peers because of his involvement in herbal medicines. Not perceived as a friend by the herbal community either, he told me that if both ends of the spectrum were unhappy with him then he was probably holding a fair position."
"He had a lot of integrity and a strong sense of fairness," Blumenthal added. "He was a very decent man. You could disagree with his politics on herbs—but you couldn't not like the guy."
"Tip Tyler personified the Old World scholar and gentleman," said Loren Israelsen, executive director of the Utah Natural Products Alliance and president of the LDI Group, based in Salt Lake City. "He was absolutely courteous and respectful to all yet spoke his mind with courage and clarity. He was, for many of us, the last word on botanical science and a champion of the German approach to the regulation of botanicals. His hope and dream of seeing high quality botanicals available as trusted medicines remains unfulfilled, but through his vision and leadership, many hope this will yet come true. His legacy will influence our thoughts and our work for many years. His loss will be felt far longer than that."
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXII/number 10/p. 9