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Frank T. Falkner, 84; Professor, Expert on Pediatric Growth

September 05, 2003|From Staff and Wire Reports

Dr. Frank Tardrew Falkner, 84, an internationally known expert on pediatric growth and development who also made an impression in professional car racing as mentor to Indy 500 champion Danny Sullivan, died Aug. 21 at his Berkeley home. The professor emeritus and former chairman of maternal and child health at UC Berkeley had prostate cancer.

Falkner was born in Hale-Cheshire, England, on Oct. 27, 1918, and received his medical education during World War II; his clinical training at two London hospitals came during the London Blitz of 1940, when German bombers attacked the city day and night for months. Falkner got his medical degree from the University of Cambridge at war's end, in 1945.

In 1956, he joined the faculty of the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky, where he was one of the first researchers to use twins to study genetic versus environmental influences on growth. In 1968, he joined the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development as program director, later rising to associate director.

In 1970, he directed the Fels Longitudinal Study of Physical Growth and Development, the oldest and largest growth study in the world. Data from the Fels study form the basis of the North American Standard Tables of Height and Weight, which pediatricians have used for years to monitor children's physical development.

In 1981, he moved to the University of California, where he helped form the Joint Health and Medical Sciences Program for UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco.

He was editor in chief of the International Child Health Journal and the author of more than 160 papers.

Falkner also was a race car enthusiast. A member of the British Racing Drivers' Club, he was pals with racing giants Ken Tyrrell and John Cooper. Falkner helped launch the career of Sullivan, a childhood friend of his son, Michael, when he sent Sullivan to driving school in England, then persuaded Tyrrell to give Sullivan a driving test.

Tyrrell hired him, and Sullivan went on to become one of racing's most identifiable personalities.

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