Memories of Bengt Saltin - a world leader in exercise and metabolic physiology

    By: Terry Graham on Oct 08, 2014

    Memories of Bengt Saltin - a  world leader in exercise and metabolic physiology


    By Terry Graham, Editor Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.

    The publisher and the Canadian Exercise Physiology Society (CSEP) have put together this blog tribute and we extend an invitation for all readers to submit a memory of meeting and interacting with Bengt Saltin and (or) a thought for his family.  This can be done in the comments section here.

    As you have read in the Tribute published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism here, Bengt was one of my oldest friends and I was always impressed with how he interacted with students and young faculty. 

    I have witnessed many times at conferences when Bengt would be approached by a student or young scientist (usually a large number rather than one!). He would never bush them aside but rather patiently interact with them. Last week several members of our Editorial Board related similar stories; when they were early in their career they had met Bengt and he had given generous amounts of time to discussions with them. He listened to them and talked about them rather than about himself.”

    One of my biggest challenges here is to select which of so many memories to share with you.  I’ve decided to go back to when I was a Master’s student.  Yes, way back to the very early 1970s.  Even then Bengt was a world leader in the field, although his career was just beginning. 

    I met Bengt in 1972, not at a conference, but in the little village of Orono, where I grew up!  At Thanksgiving that year, my former high school hosted the Canadian Orienteering championships in a nearby forest area.  The organizer, who informed me that the Swedish national team was coming, asked me to help out and also asked if my parents would be willing to billet a guest.  As it turns out my parents would host the president of the Swedish Orienteering society.  Little did I know at the time that Bengt was said president; when I found out, I was petrified.  He was a quiet and humble man and I do not think my parents ever realized who he was.  As expected, the Swedish team all finished the Event many minutes ahead of any Canadian. However, it is noteworthy that Bengt followed shortly after the national team and also well ahead of any Canadian. 

    During this visit, Bengt talked to me about MY research – imagine, a world leader, the person who was amazing the science world with his studies on muscle biopsies, was asking about my Master’s thesis.  To add to the coincidences, he had just travelled from Guelph – the University that would later hire me - where he had had time with a good friend of his, Sass Peepre. 

    The following spring I attended one of my first ACSM meetings.  Bengt gave the first Wolfe Lecture and of course the room was enormous and every seat was taken.  I sat in awe that this man who I had met last year in my little village of 800 people was now being honoured by North America’s finest exercise physiologists!  I was too shy to seek him out but he happened to see me the next day in a hallway.  He immediately came over, greeted me and asked of my parents. 

    At the time, I had no idea that I would become a post-doctoral fellow in his lab nor that we would become lifelong friends.  In addition, who would have predicted that I would be hired by the University of Guelph or that the position that I obtained was created by the untimely death of Sass Peepre. Crazy! 

    Please do share your memories of Bengt by adding a comment below!