Published: 14-05-2024 08:38 | Updated: 14-05-2024 08:38

Professor Emeritus Jan Sjövall has passed away

Jan Sjövall passed away on 2 May 2024, at the age of 95. Jan was professor emeritus at Karolinska Institutet having moved to Stockholm from Lund in 1958 as part of Sune Bergström’s group. Besides his family, Jan had two great loves - bile acid analysis and golf, being good enough at golf to regularly represent Sweden in age group competitions. With respect to bile acid analysis he was “simply the best”.

Jan Sjövall in the 90s
Jan Sjövall in the 90s

While in Lund in the 1950’s Jan developed paper chromatography to separate bile acids and after a spell at NIH and Baylor College of Medicine in the early 1960’s pioneered the new technology of gas chromatography (GC) for the analysis of bile acids. Jan then worked with Ragnar Ryhage at Karolinska to build a GC-mass spectrometer (MS) resulting in the first commercial GC-MS instrument. Jan was always at the forefront of mass spectrometry technology using in the 1980’s new “soft ionisation” methods to uncover novel disorders of bile acid biosynthesis, and in the 1990’s he was the first to use capillary liquid chromatography linked to MS to study cholesterol metabolism. After retiring, Jan still came in to work at KI and was always happy to offer young scientists the benefit of his advice. He collected perhaps the most comprehensive library of MS literature on analysis of steroids and bile acids, which unfortunately did not survive the 2018 move to Biomedicum. 

Jan was a great influence on the scientists who worked with him, including leaders in the steroid/bile acid field Jan-Åke Gustafsson, Cedric Shackleton and Ken Setchell.

Jan was a great scientist and a good, kind man. He was a friend and mentor to many of us. Jan is survived by his loving wife Agneta and his three children.

Text: Bill Griffiths and Roman Zubarev