Professor Roberto Caldeyro-Barcia

Roberto Caldeyro-Barcia

1921-1996

Dr. Roberto Caldeyro-Barcia died in Montevideo, Uruguay, on November 2, 1996 after a short illness. The scientific world lost one of the few true giants and innovators with his passing.

While still a senior medical student in 1947, Dr. Caldeyro-Barcia started a collaboration with his Professor of Obstetrics, Hermogenes Alvarez, which lasted many fruitful years. Without outside financial help they initiated their investigation on the Physiology of Human Labor and its Pathophysiology. In 1952, after 5 years of this effort, Dr. Caldeyro-Barcia toured the United States where he visited a dozen departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology to discuss his and Dr. Alvarez's revolutionary findings. After this trip he was awarded grants from the Josiah Macy Jr. and Rockefeller Foundations that allowed him and Dr. Alvarez to establish the "Seccion de Fisiologia Obstetrica," which was attached to the Professor Alvarez Service. There, with a small group of young collaborators, he expanded the field of research to include the fetus in advanced pregnancy and labor, for which he developed the monitoring methodology.

After a World Symposium on "Oxytocin" that Dr. Caldeyro-Barcia organized in Montevideo in 1957, his reputation became worldwide and his laboratory was considered one of the most unique centers for human research in obstetrics. His work laid the foundations for what is now known as the "fetal-maternal medicine" subspecialty. This pioneering research work attracted the attention of other investigators from around the world who visited his laboratory. Our present-day understanding of human labor and fetal pathophysiology and pharmacology may be said to have started in his laboratory. Many young obstetricians were attracted there, and the World Health Organization as well as the Pan-American Health Organization recognized his work by financing the creation of the "Centro Latinoamericano de Perinatologia y Desarollo Human," directed by Dr. Caldeyro, where countless young obstetricians the world over were trained in the intricacies of clinical research.

Dr. Caldeyro-Barcia's scientific achievements have been recognized by his peers around the world by the awarding of honorary degrees and honorary memberships in their scientific societies. He received numerous prizes from academic and scientific organizations on all five continents. He was President of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, and President of its World Congress held in Moscow in 1979.

After Dr. Caldeyro's retirement from the chair created for him at the Universidad de la Republica (Uruguay), the Government wisely appointed him to head its program to develop basic sciences in the University, a post he held until his death.

Dr. Caldeyro-Barcia's ("Bobby" to his close friends) contributions to our understanding of maternal labor and delivery are so important that it is not a hyperbolic exaggeration to say that his work changed the way obstetrics is practiced around the world. This is due to his efforts as an investigator as well as a teacher.

Those of us who were fortunate to have him as our mentor remember him as a demanding and perfectionistic taskmaster who taught by example. He was always the last one to close the lab, often late at night. I am certain that I speak for all his students when I state that his teaching changed our lives for the better.

With all of his commitments Dr. Caldeyro still had time to raise a beautiful family with his wife, Ofelia, and host in their home frequent gatherings of his young pupils from around the world. We always felt less homesick after an evening with his family and friends. I did not have the pleasure of enjoying the Caldeyro's numerous grandchildren, but from the family Christmas cards it looks like an extension of the experience I had with their children.

Dr. Caldeyro-Barcia will be missed not only by Uruguay but by citizens of the World who, by his passing, are deprived of sharing further contributions of his brilliant mind and his warm friendship. I am one of those for whom his passing has left a great void.

Luis A. Cibils, M.D.

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