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Professor Peter Kopelman (1951 – 2021)


It is with great sadness that we report the death of Professor Peter Kopelman, who was our interim Vice-Chancellor between June 2018 and June 2019.

Interim Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Kopelman

Professor Kopelman’s association with the University of London began when he studied medicine at St George’s, University of London as an undergraduate, and in a long and distinguished career became its Principal (2008-15).

Prior to his appointment at St George's, he was Vice-Principal, Queen Mary University of London.

He was an outstanding supporter of the University for many years, participating in Collegiate Council and chairing numerous committees and reviews. He was a University Trustee from 2011 to 2013 and received an honorary doctor of science degree from the University of London in 2016. Most recently he had been advising the University on the development of distance learning programmes to support health professionals as well as being President of Development in his support of the work of the Development Office. 

Professor Kopelman had a long-standing interest in diabetes care and initiated a district-wide scheme for integrated care in East London. He was active in health policy, medical education and research. Professor Kopelman has been chair or deputy chair of several national university committees and was a member of NHS national policy and workforce committees.

He chaired the Clinical Examining Board of the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Faculty and Education Board and Health Education England’s Oversight Board for Medical Associate Practitioners.

Professor Kopelman’s major research interest was in the field of obesity, in particular endocrine aspects and possible genetic determinants. He was also interested in the pathophysiology of associated complications and their management. 

He was a past chairman of the Association for the Study of Obesity, President of the European Association for the Study of Obesity, a Trustee of the International Association for the Study of Obesity and a member of the Department of Health and Food Standards Agency Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.

He was also a member of the Chief Medical Officer’s Working Group on physical activity. He was chair of the Royal College of Physicians Committee on Nutrition and chaired the College’s Working Party on the management of obesity with particular reference to drug therapy. He also chaired the Royal College of Physicians’ Working Party on nutritional care of patients that resulted in the publication of a report entitled Nutrition and Patients – a Doctor’s Responsibility. 

Vice-Chancellor Professor Wendy Thomson said:

With Peter’s passing the University has lost a longtime supporter and friend.  He was held in great affection by staff who came to know him during his time as interim Vice-Chancellor.  He ably stepped into this role when Adrian Smith was called to the leadership of the Turing.  Peter welcomed me when I arrived in 2019,  when I benefitted from his rich knowledge of the University’s history.  He has been instrumental in supporting the Development Office, and sharing his health networks to explore the potential for distance education in these fields.   Peter will be greatly missed and warmly remembered. Our sympathies are with his family and many friends.

The University of London has set up an online book of condolence for anyone wishing to leave their messages for Professor Kopelman’s family. 

Professor Kopelman’s family have asked for any donations to be made to Anthony Nolan, a charity that makes lifesaving connections between people with blood cancer and those who are ready to donate their stem cells. To make a donation or leave a tribute for Peter: