Professor Boris I. Kuperman (1933-2002)
Professor Boris I. Kuperman will be remembered by the scientific community as an expert in the field of parasitology, primarily by fish parasitologists. The beginning of his career in biology dates back to the late 1950s, when Boris matriculated at the Leningrad Veterinary Institute. The demanding hardships of the post-war period (Boris' father died in action as a Red Army soldier) dictated a practical occupation for the young man. Although Boris was a diligent and inquisitive student, he also dedicated most of his spare time to a life-long passion for the theatre. Upon the graduation, he spent five years working in the Pskov countryside of north-western Russia as a veterinary surgeon. It was in this village, without electricity, that Boris conducted his first experiments on the parasitological morbidity of sheep: the resulting data formed the basis for his first publication on dictyocaulosis in sheep.
Boris decided to pursue his interest in parasitology academically and, in 1961, became a post-graduate student of a prominent parasitologist, Prof. B. Bychowsky, Head of the Laboratory of Parasitology at the Zoological Institute of the Academy of Sciences in Leningrad. At that time, this vibrant laboratory was the leading centre of advanced parasitological research based on the fundamental principles of the Russian and European schools. Professors M. Dubinina, A. Strelkov and A. Monchadsky were mentors and colleagues of Boris Kuperman. Here Boris met Dr S. Shulman, who became his scientific adviser, collaborator and one of his closest friends. In the Zoological Institute Boris defended his PhD thesis, the subject of which was a comprehensive study of the biology and evolution of the lower cestodes. The English translation of his first book, "Tapeworms of the genus Triaenophorus, parasites of fish", formed an invaluable source of theoretical and practical information for western scientists, and gained him a world-wide reputation.
After 1966, Boris Kuperman's scientific life was linked to the Institute for the Biology of Inland Waters (IBIW) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, located in the town of Borok on the shore of the Rybinsk Reservoir in the Volga River system. Here he was completely full-filled, with family, friends, colleagues, students and an endless source of material for his studies on fish parasites. The biology, geographical distribution, evolution, phylogeny, ecology, functional morphology and biochemistry of the Platyhelminthes, especially the cestodes, remained the focus of his work for more than three decades. Boris always put great emphasis on the methodology and practice of fieldwork. He spent much time and effort involved in nation-wide expeditions across the Soviet Union in order to study parasites of freshwater fishes. The geographical coverage of his expeditions ranged from the Baltic Sea to the Far East, but the principal location of his fieldwork was the Volga River. He recognised at an early stage the advantages of electron microscopy in relation to parasitology, and became one of the first Russian parasitologists who successfully used it in his own research. In 1984, he was awarded his Doctor of Science for a comprehensive study on the functional morphology of the lower cestodes. In 1988, his monograph "Functional morphology of the lower cestodes: ontogenetic and evolutionary aspects" became a 'best-seller' among Russian parasitologists. Although this book was not translated to English, it became known and used in North America and Europe. The 'Russian period' of the scientific career of Boris Kuperman resulted in the publication of four monographs and more than 100 scientific papers.
During the 30 years of work for the Institute for the Biology of Inland Waters, Prof. Kuperman founded and headed the Electron Microscopic Facility and later the Laboratory of Ecological Parasitology. Thanks to his initiative and drive, the IBIW developed into a major centre of parasitological research. More than 20 masters and doctoral students in the field of parasitology were mentored by Boris Kuperman and defended their theses under his supervision. His former students remember him, not only as an exceptionally knowledgeable and outstanding scientist, but also as a truly wonderful person. He never lost his connection with his students and colleagues in Russia, and he strongly supported their research.
In 1996, Prof. Kuperman and his family moved to the United States and made a new home in San Diego, California. Shortly after this, he approached San Diego State University, where he was warmly welcomed by the staff of the Department of Biology. He began his research on parasites of fishes and invertebrates from the Salton Sea, a unique hyper-saline lake in Southern California. His enthusiasm for and E. Tellervo Valtonen et al. excitement about the parasite fauna of the lake appeared unlimited. Boris participated in numerous expeditions to the semi-arid zone of the Salton Sea and spent long hours in the laboratory. His first findings on the parasitic protozoans of fishes made him as excited and happy as he had felt during the first years of his scientific career! Soon his research interests extended to include a parasitological survey of fishes from three major river systems of southern California and a study of introduced parasites of fishes and amphibians in southern California. His work was not limited to documenting the parasite fauna, but also included research on the life cycles of cestodes and trematodes, including aspects of their morphology and physiology. During the last six years of his life in the US, Boris Kuperman published 11 research papers and prepared several other contributions for publication. He participated in seven national and international parasitological meetings and in numerous local and regional conferences, where his reports were received with great interest. In 1999, Boris Kuperman began teaching a general parasitology class as an adjunct professor of the Department of Biology at San Diego State University. Although teaching was new to him, the depth of his knowledge, devotion parasitology, empathy with and attentiveness to the young people in his classes, and great sense of humour made Boris a teacher much admired by receptive students.
Boris I. Kuperman has impressed countless colleagues, friends and students by his cordial, radiant personality, wisdom and goodwill, and by his genuine enthusiasm for scientific endeavour. He lived as a scientist and died as a scientist, following the closing ceremony of the 10th ICOPA meeting in Vancouver, on August 10, 2002. He was full of plans for his future life and work. The passing of Prof. Boris I. Kuperman is a huge loss to Russian, European and North American parasitological communities, and to us all.
Page compiled by M. Bultowicz. Last modification: 05-08-2003