Obituaries currently available on this website are as follows:
Noreen Murray (2011)
James S. Porterfield (2010)
Roger C.W. Berkeley (2010)
Norman Grist (2010)
Duncan McGarva (2010)
Pat Clarke (2010)
Walter Plowright (2010)
Nicolas Glansdorff (2009)
Donald Black (2009)
Dr Mike Mayo (2008)
Sir James Baddiley FRS (2008)
Naomi Datta FRS (2008)
Chris Thurston (2008)
Norbert Pfennig (2008)
Howard Dalton (2008)
Douglas Watson (2007)
Simon Baumberg (2007)
Miloslav Kocur (2006)
Thomas Henry Flewett (2006)
William Terence Coakley (2006)
Sidney Reuben Elsden (2006)
Marler Thomas Parker (2006)
Professor J.R. Quayle FRS (2006)
Professor Carlos Hormaeche (2005)
Ernest Frederick Gale FRS (2005)
Professor June Lascelles (2004)
Professor Stanley (Stan) Williams (2004)
Fred Brown (2004)
David Hughes (2003)
John Smith (2003)
Jane Allen (2003)
David Kelly (2003)
Sir Robert Williams (2003)
Professor Noreen E. Murray CBE FRS FRSE (26 February 1935-12 May 2011)
Noreen Elizabeth Murray was a distinguished and highly respected British geneticist. She made a major contribution to the development of gene cloning technology by developing modified bacteriophages for use as gene cloning vectors and for high-level expression of proteins in bacteria.
Noreen enjoyed a rural upbringing, initially in the village of Read, near Burnley in Lancashire, and from the age of 5 in Bolton-le-Sands. Noreen attended primary school in Bolton-le-Sands, where her father was headmaster, followed by Lancaster Girls? Grammar School. The family spent much of their time outdoors, playing tennis, cycling, swimming or rowing on Lake Windermere or on the canal at the bottom of their garden. Their home in Read was close to the cricket ground, and Noreen particularly remembered watching Learie Constantine, the much-admired West Indian cricketer. Noreen said that as a child she was a little tomboy, and she loved climbing trees. She also liked to help her father with gardening, and she had her own section of their garden, which was the beginning of a life-long love of plants. Her father was a strong disciplinarian and she and her older brother had a strict but loving upbringing. He was particularly concerned about punctuality and, as a result, Noreen said she always tried to be on time.
Noreen?s brother, Neil, also had a strong influence on her. He was a keen naturalist (he later studied forestry at Edinburgh University) and he encouraged Noreen to collect pressed flowers and birds? feathers. In her 5th form at school, Noreen studied physics and chemistry, biology not being an option available to her at that stage. However, her brother introduced her to biology, teaching her Mendel?s Laws and encouraging her to read biology books. Thus, at the age of 15, Noreen changed from thinking of becoming a domestic science teacher to studying biology.
Noreen won a number of prizes at school and in 1953 was awarded a London Intercollegiate Scholarship for entry to King?s College London, and a State Scholarship. She went on to obtain a BSc in Botany and became interested in microbial genetics. She was therefore pleased to have the opportunity to study for a PhD at the University of Birmingham with David Catcheside, who was head of the new Department of Microbiology. She was very interested in the nature of the gene and whether genes concerned with a biochemical pathway were closely linked in Neurospora as had been found for some pathways in bacteria. She studied the genes of the methionine biosynthetic pathway, performing extensive fine-structure analyses. She became interested in the mechanism of genetic recombination, finding evidence for polarized gene conversion.
Noreen occasionally recalled with amusement that, when she first arrived with her luggage at the large house where she was to stay in Birmingham, she was mistaken for a maid going into service. In Birmingham she met her future husband, Kenneth Murray, who was studying for a PhD in chemistry. In addition to their shared passion for laboratory work, they enjoyed hill walking, camping and climbing, especially in the Scottish Highlands. They married in 1958 and were later to become close scientific collaborators.
After completing their PhDs, they took up postdoctoral positions at Stanford University. Noreen continued her studies of Neurospora for 5 happy years in David Perkins? laboratory, describing her time there as being outstanding. She found the environment at Stanford intellectually stimulating, meeting many leading microbial geneticists. It was during this time that she first met Frank Stahl, who was interested in her studies of polarized gene conversion and who later collaborated with Noreen during sabbatical visits to the UK.
In 1964, she and Ken returned to the UK, Noreen to work with Harold Whitehouse in the Botany School, Cambridge, and Ken to the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. Noreen was shocked that her degrees were not recognized by Cambridge University. It seemed that she was expected to work for a Cambridge PhD and, during her 6th year as a postdoctoral researcher, she appeared on the photograph of the Cambridge PhD students.
In 1968, Noreen took up a position in Bill Hayes? MRC Unit of Molecular Genetics in the University of Edinburgh, and Ken became a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Molecular Biology. Noreen decided to turn her research to systems that were more accessible to molecular studies. She had become interested in the phenomenon of host-controlled restriction (the ability of bacterial cells to ?restrict? foreign DNA) and decided to study this phenomenon in Escherichia coli, using bacteriophage lambda and her knowledge of bacteriophage genetics learned from Frank Stahl. Ken, at the end of his time in Fred Sanger?s laboratory, had begun to determine short DNA sequences at the ends of the lambda genome, and they became excited by the prospect of combining their genetic and molecular skills to identify the DNA sequences that are cleaved by DNA restriction enzymes within the phage lambda genome.
Noreen and Ken were among the first to realize that the ability to cut DNA with restriction enzymes opened up the possibility of joining together different DNA molecules that had been cut in this way, to produce recombinant DNA molecules, and thereby to clone DNA sequences. Noreen used elegant genetic approaches to modify the chromosome of phage lambda, reducing the number of restriction enzyme cleavage sites, so that it could be used as a DNA cloning vector. Noreen, Ken and their close colleague, Bill Brammar, used these modified bacteriophages to clone defined fragments of DNA from a variety of organisms.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, Noreen produced a series of increasingly sophisticated lambda cloning vectors and bacterial strains in which to grow them. She also realized at an early stage that the protein products of cloned genes could be expressed in bacterial host cells, and her clever use of the quiescent, lysogenic state of phage lambda allowed the expression of proteins that may be toxic to the bacterium. This facilitated the high-level production of proteins in bacteria, including enzymes such as T4 DNA ligase, polynucleotide kinase and E. coli DNA polymerase that were of major importance for the new recombinant DNA technology.
The practical aspects of Noreen?s work were always supported by scholarly exploration of the biochemical and genetic properties of the systems used, and it is notable that many of her publications have only one or a few authors, because she was generally the main instigator and often the sole technical contributor to the work. In the collaborative work with her husband, Noreen?s contributions were clearly identifiable; she being the geneticist, he the biochemist.
She was generous with her time, both with her colleagues and by serving on many committees, including the Executive Advisory Board of the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, the BBSRC Council, the Council of the Royal Society, the Cabinet Office Science & Technology Honours Committee, as Vice President of the Royal Society and President of the Genetical Society of Great Britain. She was also a trustee of the Darwin Trust of Edinburgh, a charitable organization founded by Ken and Noreen to support research in the natural sciences.
In 1988, Noreen was promoted to a personal chair at Edinburgh University, as Professor of Molecular Genetics. Her many contributions to science have been honoured by Fellowships of the Royal Societies of Edinburgh and London, Membership of the European Molecular Biology Organization and Honorary DScs from the Universities of Birmingham, UMIST, Warwick, Lancaster, Sheffield and Edinburgh. She was awarded the Gabor Medal of the Royal Society, the AstraZeneca Award of the Biochemical Society, the SGM Fred Griffith Prize, the Nexxus award (jointly with her husband) and, in 2011, she received a Royal Medal from the Royal Society of Edinburgh. She was awarded a CBE for services to science in 2002. Noreen?s achievements came at a time when it was not always easy for women to make a career in science and it is a measure of her ability, hard work and determination that she reached the very top of her profession.
Although she had no children, Noreen thought of her students and postdocs as her family. She was a caring mentor and a great source of inspiration to all who worked with her, and she earned widespread admiration and affection.
Noreen loved to work at the bench and continued to do so long after her official retirement. She was extraordinarily hard-working, and held very high standards not only in her work but also in her personal life. She loved classical music, fine art and plants. The garden at their house in Edinburgh was her favourite place to escape to and it always looked magnificent. Noreen also took a pride in her appearance and dressed elegantly and stylishly. She was an excellent cook. She and Ken enjoyed good food, fine wines and the company of others, and they were very warm-hearted and generous hosts.
Despite her eminence as a scientist, Noreen was always very unassuming and quietly spoken. However, she was also strong-minded and extremely determined. Noreen?s strength of character showed clearly during her recent illness from motor neurone disease, which caused very rapid deterioration in her health over a period of about 9 months. She demonstrated great courage, determination and dignity during this very difficult time, seeming more concerned about others than about herself.
Noreen will be remembered with huge affection and admiration by so many, and she will be greatly missed. She is survived by her husband, Professor Sir Kenneth Murray, and her brother, John Neil Parker, who lives in Australia.
Jean Beggs, University of Edinburgh
James S. Porterfield (1924-2010)
James Porterfield was the epitome of an English gentleman and throughout his life he strove diligently to serve his family, friends and colleagues. He was unfailingly polite and helpful to all who crossed his path. His contribution to virology was immense and he played a major role in establishing the biological baselines for a series of tropical viruses.
James took his medical degree in Liverpool and joined the Department of Bacteriology there in 1947 as an assistant lecturer. Under the influence of Sir James Stuart Harris, he transferred to the MRC Common Cold Unit in Salisbury in 1949 to begin his long association with viruses. At that time, the Unit was an outstation of the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) which was then based at Hampstead. Here, James began the basic studies of the common cold, but more importantly it was here that he met and wed his wife Betty from Australia who was working at the Unit.
In 1953, the MRC was asked to provide a virologist to work in the Laboratories of the West African Council for Medical Research in Lagos while the Director was on study leave. Thus began James's lifelong interest in arthropod-borne viruses. He was able to utilize his expertise in haemagglutination to devise a diagnostic test for yellow fever and on returning to the NIMR in 1959 (now at Mill Hill) he continued his research on a range of arboviruses utilizing plaque neutralization and other techniques.
In 1965, he became the Head of the WHO Regional Reference Laboratory based at NIMR and first Chairman of the Arbovirus Study Group of the International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses. During his tenure, the togaviruses and the bunyaviruses became established as virus families. While at NIMR, James demonstrated his excellent experimental techniques by working successfully with pathogenic viruses on the bench and in a standard hood - this was well before the advent of categorization of virus hazards. During this period, James also applied his administrative skills to play major roles in a number of professional societies. He had joined the Society for General Microbiology in 1955; from 1970 to 1972 he was one of the early Conveners of the Virus Group and from 1972 to 1977 was the Meetings Secretary. In the latter post he played an important part in devising and expanding the meetings portfolio of the Society. In addition to these responsibilities, James was also the Secretary and latterly Vice-President of the Royal Institution (1973-1978). In 1955, he had become a Fellow of The Royal Society of Tropical Medicine; from 1973 to 1976 was a Councillor and from 1980 to 1981 he was the Vice-President.
In 1977, when James was at the peak of his career he and Betty had to endure the loss of their brilliant son William who succumbed to a virulent osteosarcoma just when he had finished a very successful mathematics doctorate. This sad blow probably induced James and Betty to move from their home in Mill Hill and for James to take up the Readership in Bacteriology at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology at the University of Oxford. He also became a Professorial Fellow at Wadham College. James remained in Oxford until he retired to Devon in 1988 and was very productive - no doubt because he had relinquished many of his other administrative duties. Among his notable discoveries at this time - with J.S. Peiris - was the demonstration that, in some situations, antibodies could enhance virus infection. It was always evident, however, that James had retained an affinity with NIMR and Mill Hill, and it was significant that his last publication (1995) was a very informative account of the history of the Institute. Unfortunately, James was not able to enjoy a more fulfilling retirement - he had a stroke in 1999, losing his sight in 2006 and eventually spent his last 3 years in a nursing home with a very poor quality of life. James is survived by his wife Betty, his daughter Patricia and his grandchildren Katharine and Laurence.
Willie Russell, University of St Andrews
Roger C.W. Berkeley (1937-2010)
Born in 1937, Roger studied for his Bachelor's degree at the University of Nottingham, stayed there for his PhD on the bacterial decomposition of chitin, and then moved to the University of Bristol in 1964. He quickly became an active member of the teaching team for the BSc in Microbiology and, on the arrival of Professor Richmond (later Sir Mark Richmond) a few years later, he made an important contribution to the design and delivery of molecular microbiology teaching, an area in which the Department soon acquired a strong international reputation. Roger also served the University of Bristol and its students in other ways. He became the Faculty of Science Tutor, a position in which he gave special guidance to undergraduates in the Ordinary Degree curriculum. In 1984, he became warden of one of the student residences, Badock Hall, and so brought his organizational and pastoral skills to the benefit of wider groups of students, while continuing as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Bacteriology. He was also probably the first member of his university department to make use of that now universal and essential piece of equipment, the personal computer.
Shortly after he arrived in Bristol, he began to develop a programme of research on members of the genus Bacillus, initially concentrating on extracellular enzyme transport across cell membranes in Bacillus, and subsequently embracing the classification and identification of Bacillus species - with a number of publications from the 1970s to the 1990s. Notwithstanding this evolution in his research activities, he retained his interest in chitin and its applications, and in chitinases. He contributed to a number of student texts and research books and edited several of the latter over the years. Many British microbiology students of the 1970s fondly remember the textbook Micro-organisms: Function, Form and Environment; this was written by staff of the Bristol department and Roger contributed to no less than three of its chapters: on microbial nutrition, the structure and classification of prokaryotes, and soil microbiology. That gives some idea of the broad scope of his interests and expertise. This range of activity was supported by a long string of research students, for whom Roger was a very effective, wise and inspiring supervisor.
Roger was a very sociable person, a great networker and a very active member of SGM. He served the Society as Cell Surfaces & Membranes Group Convener from 1975 to 1979, and as the Meetings Secretary from 1980 to 1985. In the 1980s-1990s he was successively the Secretary and Chairman of the Bacillus Subcommittee of the International Committee on the Systematics of Bacteria (ICSB).
As a scientist, he may be best remembered for his contributions to the taxonomy of the aerobic endospore-forming bacteria, the research area that dominated his later work. He applied miniaturized phenotypic characterization tests, automated chemotaxonomic analyses and computer taxonomy to the classification and rapid identification of these organisms; he participated in the organization of two important symposia in this field. The first of these, entitled Aerobic Endospore-forming Bacteria, was organized by the Systematics Group of the SGM, and was held at the University of Cambridge in 1979; its contributors were well aware that the Approved Lists of Bacterial Names was soon to be published and so the meeting was most timely. The second symposium was called Bacillus 2000; Applications and Systematics of Bacillus and Relatives, and was also organized by myself and some other members of the ICSB Bacillus Subcommittee. It was held in Bruges, Belgium, in the year 2000, with support from the Belgian Society for Microbiology and FEMS, and attempted to bring Bacillus taxonomists and applied microbiologists together in recognition that bacterial taxonomy should be an activity with a clear practical purpose. So popular was this event that one delegate asked - early on in the proceedings - when will the next such meeting be? Roger also co-edited both of the books that were published in conjunction with these symposia. His written work on Bacillus culminated in his co-authoring (with Dieter Claus of the Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen) the Bacillus chapter for the 1986 edition of Bergey's Manual of Systematic Bacteriology. While he published a number of original papers on classification and identification, his major legacy is probably the enthusiasm with which he infected members of the following generation of Bacillus taxonomists - myself included.
He and his wife Stella formed a very strong and mutually supportive partnership, and she recalls her hours spent on proofreading Roger's PhD thesis and preparing many of its figures. Outside the academic world, Roger was well known as a discriminating bon viveur, a generous host, a passionate and accomplished offshore yachtsman who had both cruised and raced under sail (including several Fastnet races) and, latterly, with Stella, explored the Baltic coasts of several countries in their motor yacht. He was also a keen photographer and lover of jazz. Members of the Bacillus Subcommittee, and his other former colleagues and collaborators send their sincere condolences to Stella, their children Charles and Louise, and his granddaughter Kate.
Niall Logan, Glasgow Caledonian University
Professor Norman Roy Grist BSc MB ChB FRCP(E) FRCPath FRCPS(G) (1918-7 June 2010)
Norman Grist, who died on June 7 at the age of 92, was Professor of Infectious Diseases and Director of the Regional Virus Laboratory in Glasgow until retirement in 1983. He was an only son, born in Doncaster where his father was a civil servant. The family later moved to Goole, York, and finally Glasgow as his father was promoted. Consequently, Norman went to Glasgow University to study medicine, graduating BSc in 1939 and MB ChB in 1942. Despite talent as a pianist (he considered doing a musical diploma), he decided that the country needed doctors more than pianists and joined the RAMC. As commander of a field ambulance, he landed early on D-Day and had a few hairy moments as the invasion advanced towards the Netherlands.
The war over, he returned to Glasgow in 1946. An interest in infections took him to Knightswood Hospital where he worked initially with Dr, later Professor, Tom Anderson on aspects of pneumonia. Here he set up, with Dr Connie Ross, the first diagnostic virus laboratory, later transferred to Ruchill Hospital where it evolved into the Regional Virus Laboratory, serving many of the city’s hospitals and further afield. Periods of training were also spent with Allan Downie in Liverpool, Fred McCallum at Colindale and Tom Francis Jr at Ann Arbor. He and his laboratory at Ruchill acquired an international reputation, reflected in a constant stream of visitors. The methods they used were combined into the text-book Diagnostic Methods in Clinical Virology (the first edition co-authored with Connie Ross, Eleanor Bell and Jim Stott) - and formed the basis for an annual 3-week postgraduate residential course in diagnostic methods, drawing students from all over the world.
His interest in neurological disease and its diagnosis led to the unexpected discovery of athymic nude (nu/nu) mice, a useful immunological tool now used worldwide, whilst that in epidemiology led to collaboration with Tom Anderson, Frank Elias-Jones and Jim Duguid to set up the Communicable Diseases (Scotland) Unit in Ruchill under the direction of Dan Reid. The Unit collated weekly reports of infectious agents recorded throughout Scotland and published in a weekly report - obligatory reading for all concerned with infections, both locally and internationally. International connections also led to work with WHO and to visits abroad, later generously delegated to other members of his staff.
The Regional Virus Laboratory was partly housed in wooden huts attached to a ward and, with time, the chipboard floors turned to porridge. Norman hoped to resolve this crisis by combining the virology and microbiology laboratories in Glasgow with the CD(S) Unit into a communicable disease centre modelled on CDC, Atlanta. Plans were made but the problems of completing it proved insoluble.
Throughout his career, Norman wrote some 200 scientific publications and was awarded a Bronze Medal by the University of Helsinki. His contribution to unravelling the Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak in Benidorm was also recognized by the Spanish Government. In retirement, he started to write his memoirs. Sadly, they were never completed, but those who read the drafts found they painted vivid pictures of his life; they would have made an excellent book.
He had a lifelong interest in natural history, observing wildlife round the hospital, his flat in the west end of Glasgow and his holiday cottage in Arran where he ‘flagged’ for ticks with towels spread on the grass. He was President of the Natural History Society of Glasgow from 1993 to 1996.
In personality, he was a quiet unassuming man, preferring to lead by example rather than by exhortation. In 1942, he married Mary McAlister, then a WAAF; she died in 2009 after they had moved into the Erskine Retirement Home near Renfrew. They had no children.
Dick Madeley, Northumberland
Dr Duncan McGarva (24 March 1955-19 April 2010)
Members of SGM staff were greatly saddened to hear the news of Duncan's death on 19 April. He had been diagnosed with cancer and had spent the last few months in hospital receiving treatment.
Duncan did his BSc in Microbiology and Cell Biology at the then Plymouth Polytechnic. This was followed by a PhD at the University of Sussex, and two years as a Senior Research Assistant at the University of Liverpool, working on DNA repair in Escherichia coli.
He came to SGM in 1982, as Assistant Editorial Secretary on the Society's journals, becoming Editorial Secretary (Managing Editor) for Journal of General Virology in 1986. He took the first cautious steps to introduction of computers in the editorial process in 1989, using a machine he had bought with his own funds. In 1994 he was appointed as Systems Manager, with the remit to introduce 'on-screen editing' for the journals, and to become aware of developments in online publication. This led to the appearance of the journals on HighWire in the late 1990s. Duncan was also involved in the development of the ESPERE system for online submission and peer review, which served us well for five years, until replaced by the current Bench>Press system. In later years he was very much involved with maintaining the Society's websites and IT systems development.
However, he never lost his interest in the production quality of the journals, and was quick to point out the (very occasional) error. His eagle eye, and defence of high standards in written English, extended to gleefully pointing out misplaced apostrophes or spelling mistakes wherever they occurred, be it on a pub menu or the side of a lorry.
Several of the fitter members of staff organized a sponsored bike ride in Duncan's memory, and covered the 100 miles from Bristol to Reading, on the Kennet and Avon canal towpath. The donations went to the Duchess of Kent Hospice, where the staff took excellent care of Duncan in the last stages of his illness.
Ron Fraser, SGM Chief Executive
Professor Patricia H. Clarke FRS (27 September 1919-28 January 2010)
Patricia née Green was born in Pontypridd, South Wales, the daughter of a metal merchant. She won a Foundation Scholarship to Howells School in Llandaff, then in 1937 she read Natural Sciences at Girton College, Cambridge, focusing on biochemistry in her final year.
Rather than continue with research at Cambridge she opted for war work. Until 1944 she did research on explosives at Swansea and Woolwich Arsenal under the auspices of the Armament Research Group, Ministry of Supply.
From 1944 to 1947 she worked at Wellcome Research Laboratories in Beckenham, Kent, in the research group led by B.C.J.G. Knight. She worked mainly on toxins of Clostridium oedematiens which causes gas gangrene.
She married Michael Clarke in 1940, a captain in the Tank Corps. After the war he was a documentary film maker and was later Director of the University of London Audiovisual Centre. They had two sons, Francis and David.
Patricia worked at the National Collection of Type Cultures at Colindale, London, from 1951 to 1953. With S.T. Cowan she developed rapid
enzyme tests to identify bacteria. In 1953 she was appointed as a lecturer in Biochemistry at University College London (UCL), was promoted to Reader in 1966 and Professor of Microbial Biochemistry in 1974. Her research base was at UCL until retirement in 1984.
Patricia was interested in microbial biochemistry and decided to investigate why on certain substrates there was a lag before some bacteria started to grow. She used Pseudomonas aeruginosa and found that the delay was because the bacteria first made permeases, specific inducible systems allowing the uptake of nutrients. Pseudomonads can grow on a larger range of organic compounds than most bacteria. Patricia queried how this diversity had originated. This led to work on the genetics of P. aeruginosa. She and her research group developed hundreds of mutants which had different inducer and/or enzyme specificities. At UCL they were the first to show that a single site mutation could result in an enzyme with a new activity. A family of new enzymes was evolved by combining mutations in the amidase regulator with structural genes. Patricia and her group developed new enzymes which could be used in biotechnology, experimenting with the large-scale production of enzymes, and their purification.
On retirement she was awarded a Leverhulme Fellowship so that she could continue with her research, and was an Honorary Professional Fellow
at the University of Wales (1984-1987) and Professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. From 1990 to 1993 she was a member of the Advisory Committee of the Palm Oil Research Institute of Malaysia.
She enjoyed microbiology for several reasons, such as the fact that it required technical skills - she came from a long line of craftsmen. Microbiology was a developing area and there were always new puzzles and challenges. She enjoyed working with research students and the demands of teaching. She had a gift for writing and speaking clearly, and thought carefully about what would interest her audience. She was invited to give talks about her work worldwide - but also enjoyed speaking to young people and those without a scientific background. Her 1979 Leeuwenhoek Lecture, given at The Royal Society on Experiments in microbial evolution: new enzymes, new metabolic activities' was an example of her informative style. From 1989 to 1993 she was Biological Editor of Science Progress and enjoyed commissioning articles. She contributed to and co-edited text books relevant to her interests.
Patricia had always believed that it was possible for women to have fulfilling careers in research and have a family. She was one of six female members of the Committee on Women in Science, Technology, and Engineering set up by the Science Minister in 1993. Their report, The Rising Tide (1994), outlined the help needed to encourage women back into scientific careers. However, Patricia always admitted that she had been very fortunate in having excellent schools nearby and reliable after-school help. Her family was the centre of her life, but having taken on a range of work commitments, she always gave of her best to these.
In 1970 she and Michael bought a house in Cirencester and lived there permanently when they had both retired. There she was involved with local schools and colleges and also a keen supporter of the Cirencester Science and Technology Society and of the Cirencester Civic Society.
She was appointed a Fellow of The Royal Society in 1976, and served on their Council and was Vice-President in 1981-1982. She received Honorary Doctorates from the University of Kent (1988) and the Council for National Academic Awards (1990). Patricia was present at the inaugural meeting of the SGM, a member of Council 1960-1970, and Honorary General Secretary 1965-1970. Michael predeceased her. She is survived by her two sons and her grandson Oliver.
Catharine Haines, Lancaster
Walter Plowright CMG FRS FRCVS(1923-2010)
Born into a farming family at Holbeach, Lincolnshire, in 1923, Walter was educated in Moulton and Spalding where he excelled at his studies. Having early in his life decided he wanted to be a veterinary surgeon, he studied veterinary medicine and surgery at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in London during the war years, and after again distinguishing himself in his studies he graduated as MRCVS in 1944.
He was immediately commissioned into the Royal Army Veterinary Corps and given postings in the Middle East, North Africa and Kenya, returning temporarily to the UK in 1948, as a demonstrator in pathology at the RVC. However, his love of Africa and infectious diseases soon lured him to Kenya in 1950 to work for the Colonial Veterinary Service (CVS). He was to spend 19 of the next 21 years working in Africa.
He was appointed in 1956 as Head of the Division of Virus Diseases at the East African Veterinary Research Organization's (EAVRO) Muguga Laboratory in Kenya. At the time rinderpest was continuously ravaging African cattle herds and wild populations of buffalo, antelope and giraffe, not to mention the lives of livestock-dependent farmers. Walter is best known for the seminal work on rinderpest that he conducted at Muguga. It set the foundation for the eventual global eradication of the disease, as it led not only to an improved understanding of the epidemiology of wildlife-cattle rinderpest interactions, but to the development of an attenuated tissue-culture-grown vaccine.
He worked with a team of veterinary scientists in various disciplines who became distinguished in their own right for their work on a broad spectrum of African livestock diseases. This was an exciting time to be a veterinary virologist as it was right at the beginning of the discipline when techniques of in vitro virus cultivation were first becoming available. A good vaccine in the form of a goat-adapted vaccine had been widely available for decades and had made a significant impact on the circulation of rinderpest virus, despite its drawbacks, but it was adoption of the new culture techniques which enabled a novel vaccine to be developed.
Walter conceived that the tissue culture rinderpest vaccine (TCRV, generally referred to as the 'Plowright vaccine') would be cheaper, easier to manufacture, easier to scale-up and, above all else, easier to standardize to a high level of product safety. Through extensive laboratory and field trials, he demonstrated that the attenuated vaccine was not only highly efficacious, but was also completely safe in all classes of cattle and conferred a long-lasting immunity, subsequently demonstrated to be lifelong. Its availability ushered in a new era of rinderpest control which saw the disease progressively reduced in Africa and Asia as a result of the near universal adoption of the new vaccine. Only with the perfecting of TCRV could internationally co-ordinated campaigns be considered. As a result Joint Project 15 and the Pan-African Rinderpest Campaign were mounted from the 1960s. It is impossible to conceive how the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme (GREP) could have reached its current status of putative global disease freedom without the 'Plowright vaccine' and its derivatives of improved thermostability formulated in the 1980s. Many millions of doses were used in campaigns until, with improved epidemiological understanding and reduced disease incidence and distribution, it became possible for GREP progressively from 1994 to replace mass vaccination with focused vaccination, using 'Plowright's vaccine' targeted at eliminating residual reservoirs of infection. This tactic proved successful by 2001 when the last known case of rinderpest was confirmed in Kenya.
Kenyan independence saw the demise of the CVS and Walter moved in 1964 to work for the Animal Virus Research Institute at Pirbright, Surrey. Fortunately, he was able to continue his links with EAVRO, to which he was seconded from 1966 to 1971. Although rinderpest ranked highly in his professional portfolio, he made significant contributions to the understanding and control of other livestock diseases, such as malignant catarrhal fever and African swine fever.
Returning finally to the UK, he resumed his academic career at the RVC as Professor of Microbiology and Parasitology. During that time he continued to conduct original research and supervised the doctoral studies of several veterinary virologists who are well-known today. His final full-time post (1978-1981), was Head of the Department of Microbiology at the Institute for Research on Animal Diseases in Compton, Berkshire.
After his formal retirement, Plowright's expertise continued to be in demand as a consultant, visiting lecturer and professor. In 1998 he gave the keynote address to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) Technical Consultation meeting on the GREP in Rome, delivering a fascinating and up-to-date account of the science of rinderpest behaviour from a perspective covering virtually a century. In 2001, he made a valued contribution to the Royal Society's enquiry into infectious diseases in cattle following that year's outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the UK. Sadly, increasing health problems constrained his mobility in recent years and severely limited his acceptance of other invitations.
Plowright received numerous honours for his work, including that of Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG); fellowship of the Royal Society; fellowship of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons; the Gold Medal of the Office International des Epizooties (OIE); the Animal Health Trust's Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award; and the European Society of Veterinary Virology's Medal. Arguably the crowning accolade came in 1999 when, after nomination by FAO, he became that year's World Food Prize Laureate, an award given for contributions to advancing human development by increasing the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. The Chairman of the World Food Prize Foundation noted that 'Dr Plowright should be counted as one of the great heroes of the 20th century. His development of the rinderpest vaccine nearly 40 years ago has helped save countless lives, while ensuring that our global food supply remains abundant and safe for future generations.'
All of Plowright's considerable contributions to veterinary virology stemmed from his deep appreciation of the way in which cell culturing techniques could be developed to yield a more fundamental understanding of the nature of veterinary viruses. It is to the unique benefit of mankind that, from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, he chose to work on a variety of tropical animal diseases and was supported by the British Government to do so.
With his death the world has lost one of its most eminent veterinary virologists and authorities on rinderpest. He was renowned as one who did not suffer fools gladly, yet his clear and incisive intellect commanded respect and he could be a charming man. Many will remember him as approachable, friendly, supportive, immensely interesting and a stimulating source of advice. He is survived by his wife Dorothy who he married in 1959 and who supported him loyally for most of his African and subsequent career.
Rinderpest is only the second disease in history to have been eradicated through human efforts, the first being smallpox. The formal announcement by FAO and OIE, due imminently, that rinderpest has been eradicated from the world will confirm the achievement as a fitting and lasting memorial to this remarkable scientist and committed veterinary surgeon.
Peter Roeder OBE, Bordon
Nicolas Glansdorff (25 December 1937-July 2009)
Nicolas Glansdorff, microbiologist, geneticist, teacher and humanist has left us suddenly at age 71.
He obtained his PhD in 1966 in the Laboratoire de Microbiologie de l'Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) whose head was Jean-Marie Wiame. The title of his dissertation was: Le contrôle génétique des biosynthèses de l'arginine et du carbamyl-phosphate chez E. coli. After graduating in Botany, Nicolas very soon perceived that the future of research in the life sciences lay in a combination of biochemical and genetic approaches which was to become the science of molecular biology. One of the main research themes of his career, arginine and pyrimidine metabolism and its regulation in microbes, dates from that period, under the guidance of J.-M. Wiame in Brussels and Werner K. Maas at the New York University Medical School, where he made several visits, first in 1962, then in the 1970s. During these visits, he came to know many of the American colleagues who now recognize themselves as members of the 'Arginine and Pyrimidines' community. In 1966-1967, he did a one-year postdoctoral stay in Guido Pontecorvo's laboratory at Glasgow University, where he familiarized himself with the mold Aspergillus. He often acknowledged that making G. Pontecorvo's acquaintance had lifelong effects in terms of scientific perception and the humanistic significance of working as a scientist. This vision of science and of the role of the scientist he transmitted to his first students in the late 1960s and 1970s, when he had been appointed to the chair of Erfelijkheidsleer en Microbiologie (Flemish for Genetics and Microbiology) at the newly founded Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). His own VUB laboratory and the Microbiology laboratory of the ULB were then sharing an out-of-campus facility where they were hosted by a Microbial Research Institute supported by the Province of Brabant, whose research focused on arginine and pyrimidines in yeast, under the leadership of J.-M. Wiame and André Piérard who later took over from Wiame as head of the ULB Microbiology lab. This geographic and spiritual proximity led to the development of a quite large research community in which some of the teams were now headed by former students of Wiame's or Glansdorff's. The research emphasis was not only unraveling arginine and pyrimidine metabolic pathways and their genetic and enzymatic regulation at the molecular level, but also the comparative evolution of these pathways.
From early on, Nicolas was fascinated by extreme environments, a fascination which owed much to books such as Jules Verne's Voyage au Centre de la Terre From the late 1970s on, he started on his other major research theme: life in extreme environments, in particular extremes of temperature and/or pressure. For him and his collaborators, this was not a mere extension of comparative studies on arginine and pyrimidine metabolism, but a search for clues to the origin of life. He took part in an expedition to the Antarctic on the oceanographic vessel Polar Stern and he later dived to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean in the French IFREMER submarine, the Nautile. His interest in extreme environments included the rest of the universe and the possibility of finding traces of microbial life on other planets. He sat on committees such as the Life Science Advisory Group of the European Space Agency. One of his concerns, shared by other scientists, was the possible contamination by human agency of samples collected from the Moon or from Mars.
He was a member of EMBO since 1983. From 1996 to 2001, he was Director of the Microbiology Department of the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Microbiology. He became an Emeritus Professor of the VUB in 2003 (in Belgium, retirement is compulsory at age 65), but remained active in research on evolution and, at the time of his death, several papers are still in press or in preparation, adding to a considerable sum of papers published in peer-reviewed journals and of chapters in books. In 2007, he was co-editor, with Charles Gerday, of the book Physiology and Biochemistry of Extremophiles for ASM Press.
Nicolas Glansdorff was an excellent and inspired teacher who never hesitated to alter the contents of his lectures to present new, exciting, developments. His lectures and his enthusiasm were appreciated by biochemistry, biology and bioengineering students alike, and after his retirement, he kept lecturing on discoveries and theories pertaining to the origin of life. In this context, he was very active in the defense of the theory of evolution against creationism and intelligent design.
As a man, Nicolas Glansdorff was a humanist, an admirer of Spinoza's philosophy and very much influenced by the critical rationalism of Karl Popper. He was also an outdoors enthusiast and a dedicated hiker with a predilection for Northern Scandinavia, Iceland and Greenland. It was during a solitary trek in Lapland that he died accidentally in July 2009. He is remembered fondly by colleagues, students and friends alike.
Em Prof Dr Raymond Cunin
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Donald Black (1940-11 April 2009)
Donald Black was born in Salford on 28 January 1940. Donald obtained both his BSc and PhD in chemistry from the University of Manchester, the city where he grew up. On completion of his PhD he was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University where he worked with Professor Erwin Chargaff from 1964 to 1966 after which he returned to UK to take up a senior scientific position in the biochemistry department of the Institute for Animal Health, Pirbright, Surrey (then known as Animal Virus Research Institute). At Pirbright his research centered on the molecular biology of viruses, such as foot-and-mouth disease, vesicular exanthema of swine, African swine fever and capripox, which are the causative agents of a wide variety of diseases of farm livestock. In the early days at the institute, Donald worked with the late Dr Fred Brown FRS on RNA and protein synthesis in foot-and-mouth disease virus. In 1985 he became leader of the capripox virus group and initiated studies on the molecular analysis of the capripox virus genome. He systematically mapped the genes required for replication of the virus which led to its development as a vaccine vector. On his retirement from the Pirbright Institute in 1996 he was awarded a Nehru Senior Research Fellowship to work at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore India. In 1998 he moved to Oxford to work with Professor Geoffrey Smith at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology where he continued to work on the analysis of poxvirus genomes. He retired from that post in 2001.
Donald was a dedicated Indophile and contributed very significantly to the training of young Indian virologists. His association with the Indian virology community began in 1988 when he went as an FAO consultant in molecular virology to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute. Along with colleagues from the Pirbight laboratory he organized and helped run a course on advanced techniques of genome analysis. In 1991 he was elected a Fellow of the Indian Virological Society when he was invited to speak at the international conference on molecular virology in the tropics at Lucknow. He played a key role in strengthening the international working group on tropical virology (Virotrop). From then on he made regular visits to various universities, research institutions in India where he gave lectures and workshops under the aegis of Royal Society-INSA exchange programme and with fellowships from the Jawarharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research to work at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, where he was visiting Professor in 2002 and 2004. He was also instrumental in setting up research programmes in the Veterinary Colleges at Bangalore and Tirupati and in the virology department of Sri Venkateshwara University, Tirupathi.
Donald Black was a very warm hearted, friendly person in the interactions with scientist and non-scientists alike. Outside of his scientific work he showed a keen interest in other cultures and religions which made him a very wide circle of friends from all over the world. He died on 11 April 2009 at his residence in Guildford following a sudden heart attack. He will be greatly missed by his family and many friends.
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Dr Mike Mayo (d. 31 December 2008)
Mike was born and brought up in London, and after studying at Nottingham University for a degree in Botany (First Class Honours) he did his PhD under Professor Ted Cocking, studying the infection of tomato fruit protoplasts by Tobacco mosaic virus. The use of protoplasts for studying plant viruses was a novel technique at that time. At Nottingham Mike met Catherine and they married in 1966. They moved to Scotland in 1968 when Mike was appointed as a Biochemist/Virologist in the Virology Department at the Scottish Horticultural Research Institute (later to become the Scottish Crop Research Institute) at Invergowrie near Dundee. Mike started to apply some of the recently developed techniques in molecular biology to study plant viruses. He soon became the leading light at SHRI in the use of gel electrophoresis and the other molecular methods for studying plant viruses that today we take for granted. During the 35 years that Mike worked at the institute he collaborated with many colleagues on a number of exceptionally fruitful research studies including - the structure and function of Nepovirus genomes; plant virus infection processes in protoplasts; Luteoviruses, particularly Potato leafroll virus, including publishing the first full genome sequence of PLRV; and genetic manipulation with plant virus sequences.
Following a sabbatical year in Strasbourg in 1974, Mike started to develop many international contacts and collaborations, particularly with researchers in Europe, India, Japan, North and South America and Australia, and he eventually visited most of the 'virological' corners of the globe. One particularly productive aspect of this was the stream of overseas students and young researchers through his lab, indeed there were times when it resembled the United Nations. Mike was proud of his collaborations with virologists in developing countries, and he was instrumental in ensuring that SCRI remained the respected and much frequented international centre of Plant Virology established by Professor Bryan Harrison. Many of these international colleagues, students and visiting workers have continued to keep in close contact with Mike and Catherine, such was the warm affection in which they were held.
Mike had an ebullient and dynamic personality and was always full of ideas and enthusiasm for science throughout his career. He was a distinguished researcher of international reputation who also put great effort into refereeing papers for numerous journals and work on committees. Mike's role on the 'International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV)' was a particularly important one and brought him into contact with a wide range of international virologists. He was a major figure in the work of the ICTV and the production of their highly prestigious 7th and 8th Reports. He was also an Editor of Journal of General Virology from 1984 to 1990.
Within his circle of friends and colleagues, particularly the younger scientists who worked with him, Mike was always held in great affection and regard. Always a kindly and thoughtful 'boss', he frequently put himself out for his younger staff providing advice and help with personal problems. Mike also maintained many interests outside work; he was particularly fond of good food and wine, travel, music, golf, gardening and DIY. Guests to his house were frequently impressed by his talents as a cook and latterly as a gardener of some distinction in the difficult terrain on the Isle of Mull. In 2003 Mike and Catherine retired to live on Mull, a place they loved and where they spent some very happy times. Mike had a close and loyal family - wife Catherine who is a highly regarded biology teacher and his two sons Andrew and James working in IT and Chemistry. Mike was a great character in so many ways and will be sorely missed by all those who knew him.
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Professor Sir James Baddiley FRS (15 May 1918-18 November 2008)
Jim Baddiley died at Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge in November after a short illness. His friends and colleagues were particularly fortunate to be with him at the inauguration of Newcastle University's Baddiley Lecture in June. He was in great form and none of us imagined it would be our last opportunity to meet. He is remembered with great affection by all who worked with him, for his incisive mind, his warmth and dry sense of humour. Despite scientific honours too many to list, and a knighthood awarded in 1977, Jim was a modest man who kept his primary commitment to good science throughout his life.
Jim studied chemistry at Manchester, where a year later Alexander Todd took over the chair of Organic Chemistry and established research into the chemistry of nucleotides and nucleic acids. Jim joined Todd's group as a PhD student, moving with him to Cambridge in 1944. There he made a series of important contributions to nucleotide chemistry which culminated in the first structurally definitive chemical synthesis of ATP.
He consolidated his reputation through research fellowships in Stockholm and at the Lister Institute in London. At Fritz Lipmann's invitation, the Baddiley group at the Lister took up the problem of the structure of coenzyme A, resulting in their final determination of its complete structure. He subsequently collaborated with David Hughes on the biosynthesis of coenzyme A in Lactobacillus arabinosus and became convinced of the value of working with bacteria as model cells. During the work with Lactobacillus, one of Jim's group, Tony Mathias, partly characterized two novel cytidine nucleotides.
In 1954, at the age of 35, Jim took up the Chair of Organic Chemistry at Newcastle University. There he pursued the hypothesis that cytidine nucleotides were the precursors of unknown bacterial phosphate-containing polymers. In the light of biochemical knowledge in 1954, this was a brilliantly novel idea. Nothing was known of the role of nucleotides in nucleic acid synthesis, and Leloir's discovery of UDP-glucose was newly published. The hypothesis led Baddiley's group to the discovery of 'membrane' and cell-wall-linked teichoic acids. Investigations of their structure, function and biosynthesis, and wider aspects of bacterial cell walls, engaged him for the whole period of his work at Newcastle, latterly in his Microbiological Chemistry Research Laboratory (MCRL). The work carried out there made a major contribution to our understanding of the Gram-positive bacterial cell wall. Jim had a keen interest in the idea that a transmembrane biochemical 'machine' was responsible for cell-wall assembly.
Achievements included the development of techniques for characterizing sugar and alditol phosphate-containing compounds, identification of the role of teichoic acids in ionic balance in the cell envelope, the biochemistry of the linkage between teichoic acid and peptidoglycan, and the use of continuous culture to study the regulation of cell-wall assembly.
The MCRL was a hugely stimulating place to work. Researchers enjoyed a freedom inconceivable nowadays. Jim did not believe in disciplinary boundaries and would enthusiastically encourage the pursuit of good ideas whether of a chemical, biochemical or microbiological flavour.
He had connections in a wide range of scientific disciplines through his work for Research Councils and scientific groups. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1961 and was a member of its council from 1977 to 1979. At various times he was a member of the Councils of the Chemical Society and the SGM, and a member of the Committee of the Biochemical Society. He sat on SERC's Enzyme Chemistry and Technology Committee and the Biological Science Committee.
In 1981 Jim and his wife Hazel (whom he had married in 1944) moved back to Cambridge where Jim took up an SERC Senior Research Fellowship in the Biochemistry Department and became a Fellow of Pembroke College. There, with a PhD student, he continued to research aspects of teichoic acid and cell-wall synthesis, and as recently as 2003 published with Frank Neuhaus, with whom he had first collaborated 43 years before, a stimulating and insightful review of teichoic acid function. He took up various duties for the College and the University and was particularly involved in the establishment of the Institute of Biotechnology. Jim and Hazel continued to give a friendly and sociable welcome to past colleagues in their delightful cottage in Hildersham until Hazel's death in 2007.
Ian Hancock, Glen Lodge, Northumberland
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Professor Naomi Datta FRS (17 September 1922-30 November 2008)
Naomi née Goddard was born in London, the youngest daughter of a chartered surveyor. She attended St Mary's School, Wantage, Oxfordshire. She studied at the Sorbonne, returning to England to enrol at University College London (UCL), followed by Medical Studies at the West London Hospital Medical School. Naomi was the first in Europe to demonstrate that resistance to antibiotics could be transmitted from one species of bacteria to another. She decided that she wanted to study medicine, partly due to the influence of her older sister Helen who married a pathologist.
Naomi started her studies at the Sorbonne, but her father asked her to return home when war broke out. After a short spell of hospital work, in 1940 she started the Medical Foundation course at UCL. For the first year the female students were evacuated to Bangor. In the second year both sexes studied together and were based at Leatherhead. It was there she met Prakash Datta, whom she married in 1943.
Prakash went on to study medicine at UCL. Naomi went to the West London School of Medicine as at that time UCL admitted very few women to their medical course. She completed her medical degree in 1946 and worked for a year as a junior doctor. She joined the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) in Colindale in 1947 as a Senior Bacteriologist and studied part-time for a Diploma in Bacteriology which she was awarded in 1950.
In 1957 Naomi was appointed as an assistant lecturer in bacteriology at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School (RPMS), Hammersmith Hospital. In 1978 she was appointed as Professor of Microbial Genetics at the University of London, retiring as Emeritus Professor in 1984. London University was the parent body of the RPMS. This responsibility transferred to Imperial College in 2007.
Lecturers were expected to undertake some independent research, as well as teaching. In 1959 there was an outbreak of infection in the Hammersmith Hospital caused by Salmonella Typhimurium, affecting staff and patients. Naomi collected 309 cultures from affected people. She tested the cultures to see if any of the characteristics had changed over the course of the outbreak. She found that 25 cultures were drug-resistant, 15 of which were resistant to sulfonamides, streptomycin, and tetracycline - an unexpected result.
In 1961 a Japanese research team published their results on the transfer of drug resistance between enterobacteria. Naomi tested her strains in a mixed culture to see if there was any transfer of resistance to Shigella sonnei and discovered this occurred in a significant number of cases. The resistance could also transfer back from Shi. sonnei to Sal. Typhimurium. Naomi published her results in 1962 in the Journal of Hygiene.
The next query was how this resistance was transferred. She and other researchers thought that plasmids were responsible. Researching the biology of plasmids, their structure, genetics and function became the focus of her work. She built up a team of researchers and worked with many microbiologists from abroad. She devised a classification of plasmids, led conferences and contributed chapters to major texts.
Though fully employed, her family were the focus of her life. Some help was employed to help care for the children when they were at school, but once home from her scientific work she readily took up the role of mother. She was an excellent cook and enjoyed entertaining. Family holidays were important, as they had been in her own childhood. She enjoyed travelling to conferences worldwide. When she retired she and Prakash travelled widely for enjoyment. She contributed two chapters to But the Crackling is Superb: an Anthology of Food and Drink by Fellows of the Royal Society and Foreign Members, published in 1988.
When she retired, Naomi studied linguistics at UCL, but was unable to take postgraduate exams as she did not have an undergraduate arts degree. She took a 2-year part-time postgraduate course in human evolution at the Department of Anthropology. She wrote a dissertation on Y chromosome variations in Greeks, Turks, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots and was awarded a Master's degree. At 75 she was the oldest in the group and thoroughly enjoyed being in a learning situation.
In 1985 she was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society. She joined the SGM in 1952 and was made an Honorary member in 1989. Naomi is survived by her husband and their two daughters. Their son died in 2006.
Catharine Haines, Lancaster
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Professor Chris Thurston (29 June 1944-18 July 2008)
Chris Thurston died after a long illness at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in London. He had suffered profound brain damage following a major heart attack 8 years ago and remained in care for almost all this time. Chris was a polymath, an adventurous and successful researcher and an accomplished teacher, administrator and communicator. During his academic career, conducted almost entirely in the University of London Colleges, he played a major role in the development of microbiology and higher education in London. Chris always made a big impression: he was unusually articulate, humorous and generous.
Chris was a London microbiologist through and through, but not a Londoner by birth. Born in Norfolk, he went to King Edward VI School in Norwich, where he was Head of House, and active in school rowing, drama and the choir. Chris was also a Norwich Cathedral chorister. After his arrival in University College London (UCL) as an undergraduate, Chris never left the capital to work, apart from a sabbatical period (1979-80) with Bob Schmidt at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, USA.
Chris had entered UCL to read microbiology, but in the Department of Botany. Microbiology departments were very thin on the ground, so Chris obtained his degree under a hybrid scheme jointly administered by UCL and Queen Elizabeth College London (QEC), where microbiology was well established. Chris stayed at UCL to do a PhD on the alga - under the supervision of Philip Syrett. When Syrett was appointed to a chair at Swansea, Ian Morris acted as supervisor.
It may seem extraordinary to 21st century young scientists that, while still working for a PhD, Chris was appointed in 1969 to the first lectureship in Biochemistry at QEC in leafy (and trendy) Kensington. In 1970, having obtained his PhD, he transferred to the Microbiology Department, an influential, vigorous and congenial consortium. The Department was established in 1961 from a Bacteriology Department that had existed since 1914. At the time of Chris's move there, the Department comprised John Pirt (the only Professor and Head of Department), together with 'Simos' Anagnostopoulos, Brian Bainbridge, Michael Bazin, Don Kelly, Ted Mathison and Tony Trinci. (Shortly after, in 1975, this author joined to replace Don Kelly). Of these lecturers, six became university professors - remarkable then, less remarkable now. Equally remarkable was the peripatetic electric typewriter that was used by all staff except John Pirt, who had both typewriter and a secretary to use it. It was certainly not remarkable to be appointed to a permanent academic position without a PhD; indeed, Chris took the place of Mr John Birch in John Pirt's group, and Brian Bainbridge, Don Kelly and Tony Trinci were all appointed before award of their PhDs. Nevertheless, PhD or not, Chris made quite an impression as an extremely bright yet sociable new colleague at QEC.
One of the defining characteristics of Chris's research career was his enthusiasm for tackling technically and intellectually difficult projects. Those topics would be challenging now, but truly daunting in the 1970s and 1980s. Chris stuck with the intransigent C. fusca for over 15 years. However, for most of the 1980s, he became fascinated by another, apparently unrelated, line of research on the design and fabrication of redox-mediated electrochemical sensors using whole micro-organisms. In collaboration with Peter Bennetto (Chemistry Department), Jeremy Mason, John Stirling (Biochemistry), Sibel Roller and Gerard Delaney, over a dozen papers, chapters and patents were generated. The two most cited (Roller et al., 1984, J Chem Tech Biotechnol 134B, 3-12; Delaney et al., ibid. 13-27; 79 and 90 citations, respectively) quantify the reduction by diverse bacteria of dyes and show how an appropriate combination of microbe, mediator dye and oxidizable substrate can generate significant, anodic electrode potentials. Subsequent papers described electrochemical bioreactors for treatment of carbohydrate wastes and effluents and application of the principle to biosensors and a sucrose fuel cell to achieve efficient biomass conversions.
Throughout, the science was the motivating force for Chris, but he wanted to share the excitement too and so took great pains to explain his work to others - at home, over the snooker table and to his many colleagues and friends. Equally, he was an excellent listener and always curious to learn what others were doing and how they were doing it.
In 1992, he published his first paper on the molecular genetics of the commercial mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, launching the most productive and highly cited era of his tragically short career. In collaboration with excellent postdoctoral researchers and his long-standing friend David Wood (HRI) and funded by competitive research council grants, Chris tackled the cloning and characterization of genes encoding proteins involved in the degradation of cellulose, a process critical to the commercial production of the mushroom. Laccase (polyphenol oxidase) received the most attention since it is an abundant glycoprotein that constitutes 2% of mycelial protein during vegetative growth. Chris also published significant papers on A. bisporus proteinases, xylanase and peroxidases and, in particular, the cellulases that enable growth on crystalline cellulose as carbon source; four cellulose-growth specific (cel) genes were isolated and characterized and their regulation elucidated. These papers (e.g. Yagüe et al., 1997, Microbiology 143, 239-244; Smith et al., 1998, Microbiology 144, 1063-1069) illustrate beautifully Chris's concise and precise writing and a clarity of thought and expression. This topic occupied Chris until his illness, generating en route his most highly cited paper, a valuable review in Microbiology (Thurston, 1994, 140, 19-26; 578 citations to date). It is quite typical of Chris's modesty that this review acknowledges David Wood as follows: '...from whom I have learned greatly about laccases and other fungal enzymes; he is not however responsible for any errors or omissions - they simply reflect my imperfect learning'.
Chris served the SGM with dedication and distinction. He was for many years (1987-92) an Editor of the Journal of General Microbiology (the predecessor of Microbiology) and served as Professional Affairs Officer (1993-98).
His inclination to incisive thought and reasoning and his love of precise measurements and instrumentation were reflected in Chris's many other interests. He greatly admired optically and mechanically fine cameras and we enjoyed many long debates on the relative merits of rangefinder, large format and SLR cameras. I suspect that Chris would not have objected to the assertion that he treasured the photographic apparatus as much as the images. He appreciated fine Eastern carpets, wines, whiskies (and was a founding member of the exclusive QEC Malt Whisky Society), cigars (for a while) and food (offering, for example, a postdoctoral colleague a dinner party recipe for watercress, date and orange salad). In these worldly pleasures, as in his published research output, Chris valued quality over quantity. At lunchtimes, in QEC days, he would walk through the lanes of Holland Park adjacent to the College, discussing work, life and experiments with a few close colleagues. Chris had a rare regard for an appropriate work/life balance.
Chris was humorous, a mine of information and an observer of small detail. He loved The Times crosswords. Chris also had style. In a decade where many of his colleagues paraded dubious sartorial taste (and I dare not mention by name which colleagues), Chris favoured highly polished, brown brogue shoes and tailored, crisp shirts, and his trademark, reddish hair was always well cut and brushed. With his wife Sue, and later their daughter Anna, they lived in beautifully restored period houses. His office at QEC was very organized; neat examples of his curious, rather spidery handwriting were carefully filed.
In the College community, Chris will probably be best remembered for his outstanding contributions to College management through services to at least 20 Committees and Boards during his 31 years at QEC/King's. In 1975-76, he represented the Academic Board of QEC on the College Council, and was later a major driving force in the University of London Board of Studies. He was instrumental in some of the most tumultuous mergers and reorganizations the University has seen. He was a member of the joint Working Party for the merger of QEC, Chelsea College and King's College (1983-85) and played a similar role from 1994 on the Academic Planning Team for the King's/UMDS merger. He was Deputy Head of the Division of Biosphere Sciences from 1988 to 1991 and retained a high profile in Divisional management in its successor, Life Sciences. He worked tirelessly with Marian Simmonds on 'The Cornwall House Project' to plan and bring to fruition the move of the Kensington scientists to Waterloo, generating through a PFI the current home of Biomedical and Health Sciences - the Franklin-Wilkins Building. His work for the project planning team involved innumerable plans, measurements, and company representatives, not to mention a great deal of hassle. These were trying times, yet Chris remained incredibly resilient, exuberant and professional in all his dealings. He made trips overseas to inspect laboratories already designed and furnished by tendering companies: a trip to California was memorable for his hotel room, which was accessed by a high walkway - unsuited to his vertigo. Today's Franklin-Wilkins Building on the South Bank is largely based on the scheme that he helped to generate for disposition of the office, social, teaching, library and research space.
Chris was a thorough, systematic teacher and examiner yet with no sense of self-importance. His intellect never got in the way. Keith Gull remembers Chris accepting with good grace a prank involving the removal of his office door (yes, the removal of the office door) and hiding it in a basement room for a week!
Chris was, in Sue Thurston's words, curious, kind and contented. He was a fine gentleman and an accomplished scientist. The plethora of his accomplishments endeared him to so many. Their loss and sorrow must be compounded by the nature of his long illness.
I am very much indebted to Sue Thurston, Keith Gull, Janet Hurst, Joy Poole, Sibel Roller, John Stirling, Tony Trinci and Ann Wood for the recollections, constructive comments and invaluable information received during the writing of this obituary.
Robert Poole, The University of Sheffield
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Professor Norbert Pfennig (8 July 1925-11 February 2008)
Norbert Pfennig, former professor of limnology and microbial ecology at the University of Konstanz, Germany, has died, aged 82. Born in 1925, he studied biology in Göttingen and soon concentrated on microbiology under the guidance of August Rippel-Baldes. In 1952, he obtained his doctoral degree in organic chemistry under Hans Brockmann. He became an adjunct professor of microbiology in Göttingen in 1964 and later the head of a research group for nutritional physiology of micro-organisms.
When Hans Schlegel joined the Göttingen Institute for Microbiology in 1959 and brought along water samples from a pond with obvious development of purple phototrophic sulfur bacteria, Norbert decided to try to cultivate them. Within 2 years, he had explored the growth demands and invented a specific technique employing defined media to further enrich and finally isolate these barely cultivable, fastidious bacteria.
A research visit with Cornelis van Niel at Pacific Grove, California, deepened his interest in phototrophs, and he remained an admirer of van Niel as a researcher and teacher. After the discovery of the importance of vitamin B12 for the cultivation of phototrophs, a broad range of these bacteria was isolated in pure culture and characterized in depth. From his days in van Niel's lab, co-operations arose with Germaine Cohen-Bazire and Roger Stanier, leading to detailed electron microscopic studies of the intracellular membrane arrangement and the discovery of the Chlorobium vesicles. The following years were filled with numerous studies of phototrophs and their taxonomic organization, to which his first postdoc, Hans Trüper, contributed, and he served Bergey's Manual as a Trustee for many years.
New research fields opened up during a study of green phototrophs. From an enrichment culture of Chlorobium-like phototrophs on ethanol, the first pure cultures of ethanol- and acetate-oxidizing sulfur reducers were obtained (with Hanno Biebl), along with the discovery of a syntrophic co-operation through a sulfur/sulfide cycle. These and numerous sulfate reducers (with Friedrich Widdel) were also the basis for a long-lasting friendship with Rudolf Thauer who studied the biochemistry of these novel bacteria.
In 1979, Norbert accepted a professorship at the University of Konstanz until his retirement in 1990. As a scientist always searching for holistic explanations, he saw the micro-organism not only as a cell or strain with metabolic capabilities, but also as part of the ecosystem with its specific challenges, including limiting substrate supply, light of varying intensity and quality, and metabolic exchange with partner organisms. Inspired by this philosophy and his new position, he entered a new phase in his career, extending his research on the interaction of microbes with their natural environment. Lake Konstanz and small lakes and ditches in the area became the objects of research and teaching, with a focus on the activities of anaerobic bacteria, especially the phototrophs, the sulfate reducers and syntrophic methanogenic co-cultures.
Unlike many traditional professors, he gave an enormous amount of freedom to his scientists and acted more like a colleague, always curious to exchange news. His lectures and courses were characterized by a similar attitude; he did not regard himself as someone who simply had to transfer knowledge, but to convey the attitude of asking questions, always willing to learn from the microbes. He enjoyed discoveries like any graduate student, even the small breakthroughs, and used to express this by his unconstrained laughter.
He was awarded the Research Prize of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Hygiene und Mikrobiologie in 1980, he was a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, and an honorary member of the SGM and the Vereinigung für Allgemeine und Angewandte Mikrobiologie in Germany. He was awarded the Bergey Medal in 1992 and received an Honory Doctoral Degree from the University of Bonn.
The microbiological community in Germany and abroad has lost one of its most prominent members and founding fathers, one of the last representatives of a general microbiology based on a specific feeling for the microbes' capabilities and demands from the ecological perspective. Several of his discoveries changed and extended our understanding of the action of microbes in nature. Those closer to him lost a personal friend of unusual modesty, an honourable personality with an open mind. Our sympathy is with his wife Helga, five children and nine grandchildren.
Friedrich Widdel, Bremen; Bernhard Schink, Konstanz
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Professor Sir Howard Dalton FRS (8 February 1944-12 January 2008)
Howard was born in New Malden, Surrey, the son of a lorry driver. He was highly intelligent with an inquiring mind and his early interest in science was evident from his many exploits with cocktails of chemicals, which often had explosive consequences. Having survived many escapades with these early 'laboratory' experiments, Howard was eager to learn more and his mother was extremely proud of him passing the 11+ examination and attending Raynes Park Grammar School. Howard was awarded a place at Queen Elizabeth College, University of London, graduating in 1965 with a BSc in Microbiology. His research career started when he undertook a DPhil with Professor John Postgate FRS at the ARC Unit of Nitrogen Fixation, University of Sussex, where he worked on nitrogen fixation in the soil bacterium Azotobacter and helped to elucidate how this aerobic soil bacterium protects its nitrogenase from oxygen damage by augmentation of respiration and conformational protection mechanisms. Howard then worked for 2 years as a postdoctoral fellow with Professor Len Mortensen at Purdue University, Indiana, on the biochemistry of nitrogenase in the anaerobic bacterium Clostridium.
Ever resourceful, while in the USA he avoided the possibility of being drafted to Vietnam by his ordination into the Universal Life Church, ironically on 1 April 1969!
Recognizing that electron spin resonance spectroscopic techniques were going to be of great importance in the study of metaloproteins, Howard returned to the University of Sussex in 1970 to work with Dr Bob Bray in the Department of Chemistry on two molybdenum-containing enzymes, nitrate reductase from Aspergillus nidulans and xanthine dehydrogenase from Veillonella alcalescens. The following year, Howard married Kira Rozdestvensky, whom he had met while living in the USA, and when Professor Roger Whittenbury persuaded Howard to take up a lectureship in Microbiology at the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick in 1973, they settled in the village of Radford Semele near Leamington Spa. Roger recalls that Warwick in those days was hardly a magnet for microbiologists, offering only an abandoned chemistry laboratory containing just two pieces of equipment, a broken piano and a dartboard! A brief chat about his background and a promise that he would work on Roger's beloved methane-oxidizing bacteria and that was sufficient to initiate Howard's long and illustrious tenure at Warwick.
Howard built up a large research group at Warwick and pioneered work on two enzymes involved in bacterial oxida tion of methane, a soluble, cytoplasmic methane mono-oxygenase (MMO) and a completely distinct membrane-bound particulate MMO. These remarkable enzymes can convert methane, a rather inert compound, into methanol. Howard and colleagues were able to purify and characterize them at the biochemical and molecular level, work which led to much of our current understanding of the structure and catalytic mechanisms of these MMOs. Howard also quickly realized that the soluble MMO had remarkable co-oxidation properties, which stimulated a longstanding interest in biocatalysis and biotransformations using MMO and other oxygenases. Through this research he also made extremely important contributions to research into the use of microbes to produce chemicals, work which was to stimulate his later interests in biofuels. He was consultant for the New Jersey company Celanese and then joined the Scientific Advisory Board for the spin-out biotechnology company Celgene, which gave him considerable insight into chemical and industrial aspects of microbiology that he used to good effect in his biotransformation research. All of this research at Warwick brought him a much-deserved international reputation, yielded many seminal publications in a career generating well over 250 scientific papers and opened up whole new research fields in the microbiology of one carbon (C1) compounds. Howard was awarded a Personal Chair at Warwick in 1983 and as his scientific career flourished, he and his colleagues were immensely proud of the accolades he received, especially his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1993, his appointment as President of the Society for General Microbiology (1997-2000), the award of the Leeuwenhoek Medal Lecture at the Royal Society in 2000 and his knighthood in the New Year Honours list in 2007 for his services to science.
Howard also made significant contributions to the life of the University of Warwick. He was Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences (1999-2002) and held many positions in the University dealing with academic matters and other areas of University life. His enthusiasm for and extensive knowledge of Japanese gardens were also brought into play on campus, resulting in the creation of two fine gardens at Warwick.
In 2002, Howard was seconded to become Chief Scientific Adviser to Defra, a role in which he sought to instil scientific rigour into policy-making decisions based on sound scientific evidence. Howard led the scientific advisory team generating the UK contingency plan for dealing with avian influenza virus and was instrumental in raising the profile of climate change as a significant threat, delivering lectures on this and other topics such as biofuels and GM crops at many national and international meetings. He was a great communicator and he wrote a highly entertaining and popular blog describing his 2 week visit to the British Antarctic Survey in 2006 where he observed at first hand the effects of global warming on ice fields in Antarctica. Throughout his time at Defra, Howard maintained strong links with the University, returning each Friday to look after his research group. He returned full time to Warwick in October 2007 and in the short time before his death had already delivered some insightful and entertaining lectures on science policy to final year undergraduates with his usual passion and engaging style.
Howard had an immense zest for science and life in general and was a fine sportsman in every sense of the word. In his early days at Warwick he was a regular in the Rowington Village cricket side; a fiery fast bowler and very useful left-handed batsman. He was a lifelong Spurs supporter and a highly competitive member of the Biological Sciences football team, aptly named 'Biohazard'. In the 1970s Howard performed with distinction in the 'Biohazard' team that played a friendly match with the Saudi Arabia national team, thereby adding to his illustrious international career. A great passion of Howard's was real tennis and he was a member of Leamington Real Tennis Club where his competitive spirit, guile and ability won him many tournaments. It was here, while playing in a friendly doubles tournament, that he tragically collapsed and died on 12 January 2008. He had just returned from a month in The Gambia assisting his wife Kira in her extensive humanitarian work, setting up new schools and medical centres there. This work will now be assisted through generous contributions made to the African Oyster Trust in his memory. He was also excited by the prospect of advising the Gambian government on a number of important environmental issues.
Howard was a down-to-earth, self-effacing man, outgoing and witty and in the 1980s was a 'leading light' at gatherings of the staff of Biological Sciences at Warwick in weekly socials at local pubs (code-named 'Choir-Practice'!). He also enjoyed the occasional 'poker-night' with selected colleagues who invariably relieved him of his hard-earned cash. Howard's penetrating questions and insightful comments at national and international scientific meetings always made for lively and stimulating debate and discussing science with him was always immensely rewarding. He was extremely generous of his time with well over 100 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, and it was a real privilege for me to work with him as a PhD student and then as a colleague for nearly 30 years. Above all else, he made science fun and was an inspirational mentor, a much-loved colleague and a dear friend. He will be very sorely missed. Howard is survived by his wife Kira and children (Christopher, Eric, Jeremy and Amber).
Colin Murrell, University of Warwick
John Grainger writes...
I first worked with Howard when he joined the committee of the then SGM Teaching Group. We were full of trepidation when we learnt that he was to become the next Council rep on the group, expecting by reputation for him to appear only occasionally at committee meetings and then bronzed and with his leg in plaster from a skiing incident, or some similar scrape. But we were totally wrong - he was absolutely excellent and put in 100% attendance. I have an abiding memory after one of our meetings at an SGM conference of him pushing his way to the bar and coming back with two handfuls of empty glasses. The Fermentation Group had had a symposium sponsored by a drinks firm and their officers couldn't carry all the unused bottles back to Scotland by train. Hearing of their predicament, Howard had taken the excess off their hands for the sole benefit of the Teaching Group Committee! He was always very supportive of my work with schools and particularly influential when he was President.
Some SGM connections - Janet Hurst
Howard was always a great supporter of the SGM, joining in 1964 whilst still an undergraduate student. He was an elected member of Council (1985-1989), the period alluded to by John Grainger, before becoming President 10 years later. SGM staff have fond memories of Howard - he was great to work with and chaired Council meetings humorously but well. He was a bon viveur who always seemed to know a good restaurant in the locality of a scientific meeting, providing us with a welcome change from university fare (but at a cost much to the treasurer's disapproval). Particularly memorable was a ceilidh at Heriot-Watt, where Howard's anarchic refusal to follow the caller brought complete chaos to the dance. Howard was involved with the Society right up to the end. He was a keynote speaker in the plenary at the Edinburgh meeting in September 2007 and instrumental, in his Defra role, in commissioning SGM to carry out the independent inquiry into bTB research currently being completed. He will be sadly missed.
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Professor Douglas Watson (20 November 1931-4 September 2007)
Members will be sad to hear that Douglas Watson has died. Douglas was a respected internationally renowned virologist, a dedicated teacher and a very thorough and capable administrator. He was enthusiastic, wise, empathic and had a piercing dry wit. During his career Douglas gave unstintingly of his time and expertise to the SGM in a number of roles.
Born in Sheffield, Douglas was educated at the city's King Edward VII School and later at the High School of Stirling. He graduated from the University of Glasgow with a First in Chemistry and was awarded the Mackay Prize as most distinguished graduate in his discipline. His postgraduate work, also in Glasgow, centred on electron microscopic studies on crystal growth. As an Assistant Lecturer he went on to collaborate with John Norris to investigate crystals in Bacillis thuringiensis. In 1960 Douglas accepted the offer to join Michael Stoker and Peter Wildy as the electron microscopist in the newly formed Institute of Virology in Glasgow. Prior to moving into the Institute, Douglas worked with Tony Waterson and Bob Horne in Cambridge. On returning to Glasgow in 1961 he began a long and happy collaboration with Peter Wildy, this resulting in a very significant contribution to electron microscopic quantitative and structural studies of herpesvirus. On Peter Wildy's appointment to the Chair of Virology and Bacteriology in the University of Birmingham, Douglas followed him in 1964 and was soon promoted to the role of Senior Lecturer. It was here that he began his lifelong studies on the proteins and antigens of the herpesviruses. In 1968 he took up a Visiting Fellowship in Canberra at the John Curtis School of Medical Research's Department. His work on polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis with Nigel Dimmock proved to be one of the most cited articles on the subject. In 1969 he returned to Birmingham as Reader in Virology.
In 1972 Douglas was appointed to the newly formed Chair of General Microbiology at the University of Leeds and served as Head of Microbiology for two decades. He was joined by fellow virologists Ian Halliburton and Dick Killington, and later Bob Honess, Ken Powell and Dorothy Purifoy. Douglas led a major transformation in the Department which became the largest of its kind in the UK. In 1984 under his research leadership the Virology unit at Leeds received the significant accolade from the Medical Research Council as the MRC Herpesvirus Research Group.
Douglas used his management skills to the advantage of the University of Leeds and served on the major policy-making committees. He commanded enormous esteem and respect for his finely honed intellect and capacity for incisive analysis and commitment to the well being of the institution, its staff and students. He served as Dean of Staff (1989-1991) and as Pro-Vice Chancellor from 1991 until his retirement in 1993.
On a personal note, Douglas was my mentor at Leeds for several years. During that time he helped shape my career and made me realize just how important it is to be an all round academic. I am grateful for his direct, fair and caring advice. My fondest memories will always be of Douglas with a wee dram in one hand and a cigarette in the other late at night at a scientific meeting discussing science in the way that only Douglas could.
Douglas was a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of General Virology from its inception in 1966, was appointed Editor in 1969 and Editor-in-Chief from 1971 to 1975. Thereafter, he was Convenor of the Virus Group. In 1980 he was 'honoured and privileged' to become Treasurer for the SGM, a position he held for 7 years. He transformed the financial status of the Society to the point whereby in 1987 it had assets of £2.6m, with no increase in membership fees. In addition his innovative approach led to the creation of, amongst others, the SGM Research Fund, the Third World Microbiology Fund and the Postgraduate Meetings Fund. The SGM also brought romance for Douglas and in 1993 he married Hilary Bower, the Executive Secretary of the Society.
Our condolences go to Hilary, and to Douglas' children from his first marriage, Shirley and Donald and their families.
Dick Killington, Leeds
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Professor Simon Baumberg (5 March 1940-11 April 2007)
Simon Baumberg was one of the most respected members of the UK microbiology community. Simon went to Merton College, Oxford on a scholarship in 1958 and graduated in chemistry in 1961. Initially he was intent on a career in chemistry but as an undergraduate, he acquired a life-long interest in microbial genetics. Following his graduation, Simon joined the Oxford Physical Chemistry Laboratory to study for a doctorate under the supervision of Nobel laureate, C.S. Hinshelwood.
Even at the outset of his research career, Simon demonstrated a remarkable ability for independent critical thinking. Rejecting the thesis of his supervisor that bacteria adapted to changes in their environment via a process involving purely chemical kinetics, Simon quickly identified the innovative work of Jacob and Monod at the Institut Pasteur and Bill Hayes at the Hammersmith Hospital who showed that gene regulation rather than 'chemical kinetics' was the basis for the extraordinary ability of bacteria to respond to changes in their environment. The results from his thesis, published by Simon as the sole author, have stood the test of time. After the award of his doctorate, Simon then spent two highly enjoyable and productive years as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of one of the pioneers of the study of gene regulation, Dr Henry J. Vogel, Rutgers University, New Jersey.
Simon returned to the UK in 1966 to take up the appointment of Lecturer in the newly formed Department of Genetics at Leeds University. He was Head of Department on several occasions and remained at Leeds until his retirement in 2005. His research on bacterial gene expression focused on arginine metabolism in Bacillus species and antibiotic synthesis in Streptomyces species. He discovered the AhrC protein of B. subtilis, a repressor/activator of arginine metabolism, and with Peter Stockley analysed its activation and interaction with DNA. Together with Kenny McDowell, he analysed the complex physiological controls involved in the regulation of the biosynthesis antibiotics such as actinorhodin from S. coelicolor.
Simon was a true academic with a keen sense of what was important and a strong dislike for what he often saw as self-serving administration. As a teacher he was universally admired for his gentle but persuasive approach to learning and many of his former students were privileged to become his friends. When Simon was eventually made a Professor by Leeds University, many felt this was a long overdue recognition of his services, not only to that university, but also to the UK genetics and microbiology communities.
Throughout his career Simon was valued as much for his sound judgement, integrity and sense of fair play as for his outstanding scholarship. He was committed to the old-fashioned concept of the 'common good' - through his involvement with scientific research, the students he taught, the Jewish community, and his kindness to everyone that he met in all walks of life. Simon served as General Secretary and Vice-President of the Genetics Society, Senior Editor of the Journal of General Microbiology (now Microbiology), Convener of the Physiology, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics Group and elected Council Member for the SGM. He was elected as an Honorary Member of the SGM in recognition of his contribution to the Society over more than 20 years.
Simon served on a number of committees of the Medical Research Council, including chairing the Advisory Board, the Non-Clinical Training Fellowships and Career Development Panel and the Stem Cell Bank Users Liaison Committee. He was also a member of the Biological Sciences panel for the 1996 and 2001 Research Assessment Exercises and was subsequently called upon to provide honest and perceptive advice to many university departments preparing for the 2008 exercise. He listened carefully to opinions and was kind and attentive to the most junior member of any team, committee or organization for which he worked. He was also a gentle though perceptive critic, whether examining students or having to explain to an influential scientist why he or she would not be getting the research funds to which they felt they were entitled. In recognition of his service to science, he has awarded an OBE in the 2005 New Year's Honours list - an award he always found amusing, given his instinctive lack of self-importance.
Simon was an active and committed member of the Leeds Jewish community. He was actively involved in the Soviet Jewry campaign during the 1980s. More recently he served as chair of Leeds Masorti community, and on the board of Sinai reform Synagogue. He was on the organizing committee of Leeds Day Limmud, and recently was appointed as its chair. In all these various activities his contribution was immeasurable; the breadth of his interests and associations, the depth of his knowledge, and the civility of his manner were unparalleled. His contributions to the cultural and religious life of the community will be sorely missed.
Despite remaining active in the scientific and Jewish communities, Simon found time in retirement for his long-standing passion for hill-walking and his rekindled love of choral singing. All his life he had a passion for classical music, particularly the twentieth century masters, and history. He loved debate and discussion, talk and listening. His activities were interrupted by a minor stroke earlier this year, and it was during his treatment that pancreatic cancer was discovered. Despite his considerable achievements, Simon was an extraordinarily modest man who would have been slightly bemused at the hundreds of friends and colleagues who turned out on an unseasonably hot Sunday afternoon in early April to pay their respects at his funeral. His spirit and deep sense of humanity live on in Simon and Ruth's sons Jeremy, Adam and Ben and four grandchildren, Lizzie, Cassie, Danny and Raphael.
Colin Harwood, Newcastle
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Professor Dr Miloslav Kocur (1929-2006)
Known to so many people in the microbial taxonomy and culture collection worlds, the passing of Miloslav Kocur has meant the loss of a big-hearted man with great personal and professional qualities. He will be greatly missed.
Milos studied microbiology at the University of Brno, Czechoslovakia, and after his graduation was appointed as an assistant lecturer in the Department of Microbiology. Here, in 1964, under the encouragement of Professor Martinec, he started the collection of bacteria, and within a short period of time he succeeded in building up an institute of considerable importance. The Czech Collection of Microorganisms (CCM) soon became a member of the World Federation for Culture Collections (WFCC) and the European Culture Collections' Organization (ECCO) to which he contributed significantly in many ways. He served as a WFCC Committee member and was Chairman of the ECCO for two terms. In 1981, he organized the WFCC's IVth International Conference on Culture Collections in Brno and at the same time prepared an international course for the curators of microbial collections from developing countries, under the aegis of UNESCO.
Milos was an enthusiastic champion of rising young microbiologists and a tireless organizer of conferences. He is remembered particularly for the regular events on the taxonomy of bacteria held at the CCM. These and similar events always enabled a rich exchange of ideas and put Brno firmly on the microbiology map. As many of his friends have remarked, Milos was a great bridge-builder.
His professional and communication skills were recognized by many national and international organizations. For several years he was Chairman of the Czechoslovak Society
for Microbiology (CSM) and he contributed to the founding of the Federation of Czechoslovak Collections of Micro-organisms and to the co-ordination of its activities. He became Chair, Vice Chair or President of several international organizations, including FEMS (1988-1993), ECCO (1986-1993), CSM (1990-1992 and honorary member), and was an IUMS Member at Large (1991-1994) He was also Vice Chair and Member of various subcommittees of the ICSB (1978-1990), and a member of the editorial boards of three ublications.
In his scientific work he specialized in the taxonomy of bacteria, focusing particularly on the family Micrococcaceae. Over the years, he became a highly regarded specialist with an associated wide breadth of knowledge. He was author/coauthor of several chapters of Bergey's Manual of Determinative Bacteriology/Systematic Bacteriology and published over 140 scientific papers. His contribution to taxonomy was also recognized by the naming of a novel bacterial species and a new genus in his honour, Planococcus kocurii.
This record shows that he was a major contributor to bacterial taxonomy and to the development of microbial resource centres, and his professional achievements will long stand the passage of time. But for those that knew and worked with him, he will be remembered best for his cheerful smile, his consideration for others and for his enjoyment of life. We mourn his loss and send deep condolences to his family.
Barbara Kirsop, Electronic Publishing Trust for Development, and colleagues
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Thomas Henry Flewett (29 June 1922-12 December 2006)
Thomas Henry Flewett MD, FRCPath, FRCP and Consultant Emeritus, was formerly Consultant Virologist at East Birmingham Hospital.
Tom was born in India where his father worked for the Indian Civil Service. He was educated at Campbell College, Belfast and graduated with honours
in medicine from Queen's University in 1945. After periods working at NIMR, Mill Hill and as a Lecturer at University of Leeds, he was appointed
Director of the newly established Regional Virus Laboratory at East Birmingham Hospital. Here his interests in virus diseases and electron microscopy
led him to provide a comprehensive service and into research on the viral causes of childhood diarrhoea, an important and worldwide problem. It was also
to make his reputation.
Norwalk virus had been discovered in the US in 1971 and other, larger viruses had been seen in gut biopsies in Australia. Tom showed that these
latter viruses could be seen readily by EM in stool extracts and, from their wheel-like appearance, called them rotaviruses - a name now used everywhere.
Other viruses (e.g. adenoviruses, caliciviruses, astroviruses) were also noted, but it was his work on rotaviruses that made the greatest impact.
Similar rotaviruses were found in the diarrhoeal stools of virtually every animal species in which they were sought. Tom was in the thick of this
research that involved collaborators in many countries, many of who visited, and often worked in, his laboratory, which was designated as a WHO Reference
and Research Centre for Rotavirus Infections from 1980 until his retirement in 1987.
Tom's work on rotaviruses brought him international fame both as a virologist and as an electron microscopist. He was, inter alia, a World Health
Organization consultant in Spain, Kenya, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Mexico - all countries in which childhood diarrhoea was, and is, a major problem.
He was Chairman of the WHO Steering Committee on Viral Diarrhoeal Diseases, 1990-93, and a Member until 1996. He was in demand as a consultant, external
examiner, visiting lecturer and journal editor, as well as a friend and helpful colleague. He was also a member of the Board of the Public Health Laboratory
Service from 1977 to 1983 and Chairman of the PHLS Committee on Electron Microscopy from 1977 to 1987. He published over 120 papers on a variety of virological
topics, many on the viruses of childhood diarrhoea.
The bare factual bones of career do not, though, convey the nature of the man. Small of stature, silver-haired and quick of thought and action,
he was a hands-on leader of his laboratory. Naturally short-sighted, he wore thick-rimmed glasses and, like many with the same difficulty when asked to
examine something such as an EM negative, he shifted his glasses down his nose and peered over the lenses. This gave him the air of an inquisitive bird,
an impression reinforced by a crisp incisive manner and speech in short and rather jerky phrases.
Within his own laboratory, he was tolerant of people, but intolerant of mistakes, and known to all as someone who loved gadgets. He was a born
tinkerer, and electron microscopy with its mystique and its machinery suited his temperament exactly. Whenever his microscope developed a fault,
the coat was off, the tools were out and the column stripped. Very few had his level of technical knowledge or were so capable of doing maintenance on
their own microscope.
Outside the laboratory, his other great love was golf. At his best, he had a handicap of 2 and he remained competitive well into retirement,
confirmed by the trophy boards at Moseley Golf Club being peppered with his name. He won their Seniors' Trophy in 1990 and the Over-70s Cup in 1992.
Tom was a major force in the development of British diagnostic virology at the time when it led the world in routine diagnosis. His working life
covered the time when it was all new and exciting, and his contribution to virus diagnosis by electron microscopy cannot be over-emphasized. He showed
what could be done by dedication, underpinned by sound technical knowledge, and made it fun.
Tom and his wife June were excellent hosts, providing hospitality to the many scientists who visited his laboratory. She predeceased him, but two
daughters survive them.
Alasdair Geddes and Dick Madeley
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William Terence Coakley (1940-18 November 2006)
Professor Terry Coakley passed away on Saturday, 18th November, after a heroic but uncomplaining fight
against cancer. He was coming daily to his laboratory, even through his last illness, and with a courageous
smile he was always asking how his staff were progressing with the work.
For more than 41 years he contributed his mathematical expertise and physics background to the many
hundreds of student projects in progress, firstly in the Microbiology Department (until 1988) and more
recently in The School of Pure and Applied Biology and the Cardiff School of Biosciences. His friendly
and gentle approach to scientific and personal problems made him a favourite father-figure: his door
was often a first-stop for those staff as well as students in need of guidance or consolation. Throughout
his career, Terry related the highest levels of professionalism with committed support for his colleagues.
Terry was brought up in Cork, Ireland. His first degree was in Experimental and Mathematical Physics from
the National University of Ireland (1961). His MSc (1963), also at the National University of Ireland, was in
Experimental Radiation Physics. He then worked in Manchester, where he was employed in the Medical Physics
department working on radiation therapy, radioisotopes, medical and biological effects ultrasound. His
entire subsequent career was spent in Cardiff. Due largely to his devoted and meticulous experimental
work Cardiff University became a world centre for studies on the biological effects of ultrasound.
The new Department of Microbiology, housed in two large laboratories in Newport Road as well as in the
Main Building in Cathays Park, presented Terry with a wonderful opportunity to apply his deep understanding
of physics to biology. This was the subject of his PhD (1968-1971) under the supervision of Professor David
Hughes, the first Head of the Department of Microbiology at Cardiff University. As well as important
developments in the diagnostic uses of ultrasound, Terry's Group was devoted to the acoustic control of
bubble activity during cavitation. Some of his earlier major innovative contributions are still used in
most biological laboratories.
Terry continued his work with a series of distinguished sabbatical visitors: Wes Nyborg and Ernest
Neppiras (University of Vermont), Floyd Dunn (University of Illinois), Bob Gould (Middleburg College)
and Larry Crum of the US Naval Academy at Annapolis. He then went on to investigate surface waves at
membrane interfaces with Dominique Gallez from the laboratory of the Nobel Prize-winning physical chemist,
Illya Prigogine. In 1984, completely new uses of ultrasound were devised in Terry's group, whereby particles
and cells can be moved to preferred positions in a standing wave field. Novel ultrasonic chambers were custom-
designed and constructed in-house for different applications, such as detection of antigens by the agglutination
of antibody coated particles, ultrasonic filtration or more recently for the study of cell-cell interactions.
Clearly the potential of these novel manipulative methods in biophysics and cell biology is widespread,
and their wider biomedical and industrial development is still at an early stage. Extensive collaborations
across the Cardiff School of Biosciences (between Microbiology and Connective Tissues Research Groups) and
the University (with Medical Microbiology), European and American Universities, Medical Centres, Hospitals
and biomedical companies signifies the world-wide acclaim that Terry's work has achieved.
Terry became Senior Lecturer in Microbiology in 1977, was awarded his DSc from the National University of
Ireland in 1981, became a Reader in 1984, and then became Professor in Biophysics at Cardiff in 1986. He was
Head of the Department of Microbiology from 1987 to 1988.
He was a dedicated scientist, always passionate about his work and a genuine person to all who knew him.
He was a truly warm, kind, thoughtful and family-loving person who spared all his energy and time in helping
people as if they were part of his extended family. His deep erudition, meticulous attention to detail and
inspirational guidance of his young disciples will ensure that his work will be continued.
David Lloyd, Cardiff University
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Sidney Reuben Elsden (13 April 1915-29 April 2006)
Sidney Elsden, who has died at the age of 91, was Head of the Microbiology Department at the University
of Sheffield from 1949 to 1965 and Director of the Agricultural Research Council's Food Research Institute
from 1965 to 1977. In addition to his experimental contributions to biochemical microbiology, he was responsible
for leading the establishment and early development of both these laboratories. Elsden was an original member
and then an Honorary Member of the SGM, serving on Council from 1963 to 1967 and as President from 1969 to 1972.
In 1967 he was awarded the Marjory Stephenson Memorial Lecture.
Sidney Elsden spent his early years in Cambridge and, after attending the Cambridge & County High School
for Boys, entered Fitzwilliam House, where he held a Goldsmiths' Company Exhibition, and graduated in 1936
with a double first in the Natural Sciences Tripos. Following a year of research in the Cambridge Biochemistry
Department under Dr Marjory Stephenson, who kindled his lifelong interest in micro-organisms, he was appointed
to a lectureship in the Physiology Department of Edinburgh University. In 1941 he gained his PhD from Cambridge
University for biochemical work on bacteria and on muscle tissue. His long association with the Agricultural
Research Council (ARC) began in 1942 when he joined their Unit of Animal Physiology in Cambridge. Here he devised
an innovative method for the separation of short-chain fatty acids on silica gel columns and used it to investigate
their microbial production in ruminants.
In 1948 Elsden was appointed Senior Lecturer in the University of Sheffield, heading a
biochemistry-based sub-department within the Bacteriology Department, and a 1-year postgraduate course
in microbiology was introduced in 1950. At that time, the commercial production of biochemical apparatus
was in its infancy, but Elsden's foresight and the skills of the Medical Faculty's workshop placed the
department in a strong position to exploit new techniques, such as the Hughes press and other methods for
the production of bacterial cell-free extracts, radioactive tracers, continuous culture methods and
Elsden's research was many-faceted. He was adept at connecting a fistula to a sheep's rumen and
he could thus easily obtain rumen contents with their plethora of micro-organisms. Many of these are
fastidious anaerobes and, having been exposed to the methods of C.B. van Niel, Elsden was well equipped
to isolate and manipulate such bacteria. One of his isolates was an hitherto unknown, large, Gram-negative,
non-sporing, anaerobic coccus which produced C1-C6 fatty acids. This organism was eventually adopted as the
type species of a new genus and appropriately named Megasphaera elsdenii.
In 1952, Sheffield University created a separate Department of Microbiology with Elsden as its
head and the ARC then appointed him Honorary Director of a Unit for Microbiology which they established
within the new Department. The research programme expanded steadily and embraced photosynthetic bacteria,
growth yields in relation to ATP generation, bacteriophage and bacteriocins as well as numerous aspects of
anaerobes. In 1959, the West Riding of Yorkshire endowed a Chair of Microbiology with Elsden as the first
incumbent. The Department's increasing reputation attracted a steady flow of postgraduate students and
visiting workers, many of them from overseas countries, including Australia, Norway, Sri Lanka and the USA.
In 1965, Elsden started the second phase of his professional career by accepting the Directorship of
the new ARC Food Research Institute to be built in Norwich. His careful planning and excellent rapport
with the architects resulted in a spacious and elegant building with a good balance of standardized laboratories
and specialized areas for services and large equipment. The layout subsequently proved easy to adapt to meet
changes in the research programme and safety regulations. The new institute was intended to bring together
several of the ARC's staff from research groups in Sheffield, Cambridge, Aberdeen and Ditton in Kent. To
facilitate the integration of these diverse groups, a nucleus of staff from each was built up at a temporary
laboratory in Norwich in the years immediately before the new building was occupied in 1968. The Institute was
sited close to the newly founded University of East Anglia (UEA) which had a strong biological ethos and a
close association developed between the two.
Following the Rothschild Report of 1971-72, the research programme was increasingly subjected to more
centralized control, with a large part of the Institute's budget coming from work contracted by MAFF. In
1975 a Director's Advisory Board was set up to improve contact with the food processing industry. Major
changes followed, including the introduction of work on nutrition and the transfer of work on poultry meat
to the Meat Research Institute at Bristol. These changes were well under way by the time Elsden retired in 1977.
Inevitably, Elsden became increasingly involved in a wide range of committee and advisory work relating
to food research and biology, both locally and nationally. Despite these pressures he occasionally managed
to spend time working with his assistant on properties of clostridia relating to their classification. After
retirement, he continued with his scientific interests for a few years at UEA before reverting to his
long-standing hobbies of gardening, fishing and cooking. In 1985, the University of Sheffield recognized
his distinction as a microbiologist and as Director of the Food Research Institute by awarding him the
degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.
Sidney Elsden had a lasting interest in new techniques and was keen to ensure that his staff were well
equipped in that respect. His attitude to his colleagues was forthright, but encouraging and sympathetic,
particularly with regard to personal problems. Early in his career his own domestic life had been clouded
by the sudden death of his first wife, Frances. His second wife, Erica, whom he married in 1948, survives
him, together with their twin sons. Despite increasing frailty in his final years Sidney retained a lively
and good-humoured outlook until his death shortly after his 91st birthday. He leaves behind a wealth of
happy and grateful memories among those who were privileged to work with him.
John L. Peel, Norwixh and Bernard A. Fry, Sheffield
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Marler Thomas Parker (27 October 1912-25 February 2006)
M. T. (Tom) Parker, one of the inspirational figures of post-war
medical microbiology in addressing our increasing concerns about
staphylococcal and other healthcare-associated infections, died on 25
February 2006, aged 94. His work on Staphylococcus aureus -
initially the type 80/81 epidemic strain that caused severe hospital
infections in the 1950s and later the increasing antibiotic resistance
amongst hospital isolates leading to the MRSA problems of the 21st century
- is as relevant to medical practice today as when he led the Public
Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) Cross-Infection Reference Laboratory
through the 1960s and 1970s.
Tom was born on 27 October 1912 in North Walsham, Norfolk, and obtained
his senior schooling at Paston Grammar School (1923-1931). He went on to
Downing College, Cambridge, as an exhibitioner, reading Natural Sciences
with specialism in Pathology (1931-1934), gaining first-class grades in
both parts of the Natural Sciences Tripos. He then completed his medical
studies at Charing Cross Hospital, London, qualifying MB, BChir (Cantab.)
in 1937, and continuing there as a House Physician. In 1938, he began a
Studentship in Pathology at Charing Cross Hospital Medical School and
gained the Diploma of Bacteriology (London) with distinction in 1939 from
the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine under the exacting
standards of W. W. C. Topley and G. S. Wilson.
The Second World War interrupted his academic studies. He held strong
anti-fascist convictions and he enlisted in the armed forces at the
outbreak of war in 1939. Through to 1945, he served in the Royal Army
Medical Corps as a specialist pathologist, initially in the UK and then in
India and Burma with the rank of Major. He made lasting friendships in
India with memorable colleagues including James Rhind, Jerry Morris and
Reg Passmore. He had graphic stories of his experiences in Lucknow and
Calcutta and in his travels when on leave, with sad accounts of the
terrible famine and the diseases that he witnessed at first hand. In
Assam, his hospital unit supported Field-Marshal Slim's advance and he was
especially proud of his laboratory's record in ensuring prompt diagnosis
and effective treatment of the many patients who developed the
debilitating infections that went with military operations in difficult
conditions in a tropical climate. His unit was then shipped to Rangoon,
arriving on the day after the Japanese retreat, and he was faced with
establishing services in a ransacked infirmary that had even lost its
Early in 1946, on his return to civilian life, he joined the newly
established PHLS under the directorship of G. S. (later Sir Graham)
Wilson. Tom's first PHLS job was as Director of the Area Public Health
Laboratory at Carmarthen, but in 1948 he moved to Manchester as Consultant
Microbiologist and Director of the Regional Public Health Laboratory.
There, his knowledge and experience were quickly acknowledged and he was
recruited to deliver classes in the Manchester University Dip. Bact.
course as a specialist teacher. His research at the time started to focus
on S. aureus as a cause of severe hospital infections and in 1956
his thesis on S. aureus earned him a Cambridge Doctorate of
In 1961, he was appointed Director of the Cross-Infection Reference
Laboratory at the Central Public Health Laboratory, Colindale, London, a
post he held with distinction until his retirement in 1978. Dr Parker was
pivotal in his role as Director in bringing together the staphylococcus
and streptococcus reference laboratories working on the qualitative
differences in the pathogenic potential of these organisms. Throughout the
57-year history of the PHLS, this laboratory played a crucial role in
investigating and understanding healthcare-associated infections,
particularly those caused by S. aureus and β-haemolytic
streptococci, and helping to devise preventive strategies that remain at
the heart of the current Department of Health programme to combat MRSA.
Tom had directed the laboratory for over half of its first 30 years.
During that time many collaborations were established with colleagues and
centres overseas which formed the foundation of the international links
that remain to this day.
Tom's unassuming personality, integrity, wide range of expertise, and
his friendly and helpful manner endeared him to all his colleagues and his
many friends. It was inevitable that his help and influence would be
widely sought within the discipline of medical microbiology, particularly
with reference to staphylococci, streptococci and aspects of bacterial
cross-infection, and he gave his time unstintingly to students, trainees
and senior colleagues alike. He served on a host of international
committees, and his contributions to WHO Working Groups, and his
Short-Term WHO Consultantships in the Sudan, India and Burma (1974, 1976,
1980), all testify to the high regard in which he was held abroad. He had
numerous collaborators across the world. His daughter Judith recalls a
stream of visitors to the family home at Radlett in the 1960s, including
Lewis Wannamaker (Minnesota), Theo Poon-King (Trinidad) and Hugh Dillon
(Birmingham, AL, USA), but there were many, many more. He was a Founder
Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists (FRCPath 1964), was appointed
a Corresponding Member of the Deutsche Gesellschaft f?r Hygiene und
Mikrobiologie (1978), and was President of the Hospital Infection Society
from 1984 to 1988. In 1983, he was awarded Honorary Membership of the
Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland in particular
recognition of his contribution to the Society's journals for almost 30
years. In turn, Tom's care for members of his staff is epitomized by his
support for Winston Maxted, a colleague in his laboratory at Colindale,
who was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Leiden in recognition of his
work on streptococci.
The day-to-day responsibilities of a hospital laboratory in relation to
public health were exemplified by Tom's work in Carmarthen and Manchester,
and are reflected in the requirement from the current Chief Medical
Officer (England) that all microbiology laboratories should fulfil their
public health responsibilities. In addition to aspects of hospital
cross-infection that constantly required attention, there were innumerable
urgent requests to identify the agents of infectious diseases and to check
their antibiotic sensitivities or otherwise to guide treatment options.
Tom carried all of these responsibilities with exemplary calmness and real
One of Tom's greatest legacies to medical microbiology was his
remarkable service as an editor of, and a significant contributor to, our
journals and to Topley and Wilson's authoritative text on the
Principles of Bacteriology and Immunity, which latterly became
Microbiology and Microbial Infections. He worked tirelessly and
with daunting commitment in these roles. For the 8th edition of the
textbook in 1990, for which he and Leslie Collier were the two General
Editors, he personally checked each of more than 2,600 pages of text
produced by 125 authors from around the world. He worked on five editions
of this book (our 'professional bible' over the years) from 1964 to 1998.
Those of us who knew Tom's standards in relation to his editorial work,
with the Journal of Pathology and Bacteriology and subsequently
(for nearly 20 years) with the Journal of Medical Microbiology,
found him a demanding and impressive colleague. We admired him hugely and
it was quite impossible to thank him as he waved away our expressions of
gratitude with a rare smile and a slight flourish of his pipe. He was
instrumental in setting the standard for scientific rigour and accuracy of
expression in the journal. He expected those standards of his colleagues,
but was also prepared to spend endless time guiding would-be editors as
well as helping innumerable authors (especially those for whom English was
not their native language) to re-work their submitted articles into worthy
scientific presentations. He created the rehabilitation part of his role
as rejection and rehabilitation editor of the Journal of Medical
Microbiology as an important teaching commitment and many authors
benefited from 'distance learning tutorials' over the re-working of their
papers - a hard act to follow.
Tom and his wife Beryl were married in October 1938. Their son David
was born in 1940 and their daughter Judith in 1950. Tom's wider interests
were reading, gardening, classical music and opera. He was, however, a
dedicated family man and always found time, between all of the other
activities for hill-walking with the family, for beach days with
sandcastles and fossil-hunting, and for picking blackberries or visiting
After moving to Beckenham in 1987, he started on yet another garden and
took up serious studies of Italian and Philosophy at Birkbeck College,
only withdrawing from Philosophy classes when, in his late eighties, he
felt that his essays were no longer up to standard. Beryl died in 1996
and, latterly, Tom moved to Sunrise at Frognal House, Sidcup, where he
made new friendships and found an alpine garden needing his attention. He
had an extended illness with surgery in December 2004, but he returned to
independent living in Sunrise with his beloved books, his paintings, his
music and his view of the garden that he had made. He died peacefully in
Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup. At the funeral, his son, Professor David
Parker, talked warmly of his father as a marvellous inspiration and
mentor. This is abundantly true for everyone who met Tom or who worked
with such a remarkable man.
J. Gerald Collee, Edinburgh, Brian I. Duerden, Department of Health,
London, and Androulla Efstratiou, Health Protection Agency, London
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Professor J.R. Quayle FRS (18 November 1926-26 February 2006)
John Rodney (Rod) Quayle was born and grew up in Mold, North Wales.
Following his graduation in Chemistry from University College of North
Wales, Bangor in 1946 he did a PhD with Professor E.D. Hughes, FRS in
physical organic chemistry. His obvious talents were recognized with a
senior research award from the Department of Scientific and Industrial
Research and by Professor A.R. (later Lord) Todd who picked him to study
the chemistry of blood pigments in Cambridge where he, unusually, took a
second PhD in 1951. It was his research on photosynthesis with Professor
Melvin Calvin at Berkeley that ignited his career in microbial C1
It was with Calvin that he published the classic paper on the
carboxylation of ribulose bisphosphate to phosphoglycerate in cell
extracts of Chlorella in 1954. Since then he had been recognized
universally as being the godfather of the subject who had tutored and
inspired many of us with his knowledge and insight which was far broader
than carbon metabolism. This lasted right up to the late 1980s when his
appointment as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bath in 1983 somewhat
curtailed his active involvement in the subject, although he did Chair the
British National Committee for Microbiology (1985-1990). Nevertheless, it
did not diminish his interest and role as being adviser, confidante and
unraveller of some of the more complex issues of C1 metabolism. Indeed he
was in demand as a plenary speaker long after his move to Bath.
Rod returned from Calvin's lab in 1955 with a brief foray into
pyrethrum insecticides at the Tropical Products Institute in London moving
swiftly to Sir Hans Krebs' laboratory in 1956 to continue his passion for
the metabolism of C1 and C2 compounds when he collaborated with Hans (now
Professor Sir) Kornberg and showed that bacterial growth on acetate
involved the glyoxylate cycle. He used his experience in photosynthesis
from Calvin's lab with labelled compounds to set out evaluating the
metabolism of methanol, formate and carbon dioxide in bacteria. His work
led to the discovery of the serine pathway and, from studies with
methane-oxidizing bacteria, the ribulose monophosphate cycle that paved
the way for the discovery of a variety of cycles and pathways in
C1-utilizing bacteria and yeasts. He also had a significant role to play
in the elucidation of a cyclic pathway of formaldehyde oxidation (the
prevailing routes were linear), the dihydroxyacetone pathway of
formaldehyde incorporation in yeast and the identification that the
oxidation of methane to methanol in methanotrophs proceeded via a
monooxygenase using dioxygen rather than water as the source of oxygen in
Much of this work was done during his tenure as senior lecturer
(1963-1965) and then Professor (1965-1983) at Sheffield University. Rod's
pioneering work was recognized by his election as a Fellow of the Royal
Society and the award of the CIBA Medal and Prize of the Biochemical
Society, both in 1978. He served as President of the SGM from 1990 to 1993
and was awarded honorary doctorates from the Universities of Göttingen
(1989), Bath (1992) and Sheffield (1992).
But most of all Rod will be remembered by most who knew him as the
voice of reason, a serious intellect, generous in his advice and help in
bringing a compassionate and sympathetic understanding of anyone's
problems, be they be personal or scientific. His valedictory lecture at
the 1995 symposium on microbial growth on C1 compounds in San Diego was
typical of the man, in which he highlighted all the achievements since the
first symposium 22 years earlier in Edinburgh and played scant attention
to his own discoveries, even though these had influenced nearly every
facet of C1 metabolism for over 30 years. In retirement he kept a strong
interest in local area health authority matters and was a member of the
Board of the Bath Festivals Trust, the Bristol Exploratory and member of
the Council of the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering.
He is survived by his wife Yvonne and children (Susan and Rupert).
Howard Dalton, DEFRA
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Professor Carlos Hormaeche (24 December 1940-29 March
Professor Carlos Hormaeche has died in a microlight aeroplane crash in
Uruguay. He was born in Montevideo, Uruguay. He was multi-talented and
could have pursued several careers, but his calling to research was
greatest. He graduated from medical school in Montevideo and developed a
strong and active interest in microbiology.
In 1981, I had just finished my second year as an undergraduate at
Cambridge when we first met. I turned up to work in his laboratory as a
prelude to my final year Part II research project, to discover that he was
about to go off on a month's vacation. He outlined the project, told me
that I could use the laboratory while he was away and then let me get on
with it. That was the way it was in Cambridge in those days: no
spoon-feeding! With this and subsequent experiences during my PhD with
Carlos he liberated me intellectually and personally, an experience I
think many have shared, and for which I will always be grateful.
Carlos was very supportive and kind to his students, but expected
respect for the science and absolute engagement in the problem in return.
He was a supreme enthusiast and had an amazing and encyclopaedic knowledge
of bacterial pathogenesis, being able to quote chapter and verse from the
literature and taking it as a personal affront if he could not remember
the page numbers from a reference from 20 years ago. This professional
pride rubbed off on those around him, and has always inspired me to try to
be similarly engaged.
Carlos, his wife Raquel Demarco, and their young son Sebastian, arrived
in Cambridge in 1972 where Carlos started a PhD in the laboratory of
Professor Robin Coombs. When the military dictatorship took power in
Uruguay in 1973, Carlos and Raquel courageously protested at the
injustices taking place, and took active roles in human rights
organizations. The family thus had to remain in England until the late
1980s when democracy was restored in Uruguay.
After his PhD he continued his research on immunity to
Salmonella infections in the Department of Pathology. He became a
University Demonstrator and in 1980 was awarded a Lectureship in the same
department. In 1994 Carlos became Professor and Head of the Department of
Microbiology at the University of Newcastle. He re-organized and
re-invigorated this Department leading to it moving from a 2 to a 5*
rating in the RAE of 2001.
His science focused on infectious disease and mainly on mechanisms of
resistance and immunity to Salmonella infection. His PhD thesis
unravelled for the first time the complexities of the natural genetic
resistance of mice to Salmonella typhimurium infection, as a model
for typhoid fever. He was able to show that the ity gene controlled
early proliferation of salmonellae in the reticulo-endothelial system,
that resident macrophages were key to this, and that this was a mechanism
distinct from acquired resistance and immunity. A key feature of this work
was to recognize the need to follow the growth dynamics of the bacteria
in vivo, rather than just to rely on death, as a measure of
resistance. This lesson has been rather forgotten in recent literature.
I was his first PhD student, and we set out to try to find out more
about what T cells and B cells were doing to control Salmonella
infection after the initial phase of genetic resistance had passed. This
was an intense, highly creative and immensely enjoyable time, with the
Department of Pathology under the leadership of Peter Wildy being a
fantastic place to work. Carlos branched out into vaccinology when he met
Gordon Dougan at Wellcome Biotech, where he eventually spent a sabbatical,
ostensibly learning molecular biology but in addition invigorating and
inspiring the people in the laboratory there to great things. During this
time live attenuated Salmonella vaccine strains started emerging,
especially from the laboratory of Bruce Stocker at Stanford, who became a
strong colleague and friend. These provided a new way for Carlos to ask
questions about the immune response to salmonellae, but also led to his
being able to start developing ideas about delivery of antigens to the
immune system via these live attenuated carriers. Carlos made major
contributions in this area, not just in understanding how the basic
biology and immunology of these systems work, but also in generating
vaccines with real potential for exploitation. I am sure that these types
of multivalent vaccine will be used, especially in the developing world,
but first we will have to overcome Luddite tendencies to reject anything
that has been genetically manipulated, and a political and industrial
system of vaccine development that is incompatible with the successful
development of new vaccines for poor countries.
Carlos continued with these scientific themes throughout his career. He
took early retirement from Newcastle after his RAE triumph and I was
delighted to be able to offer him space in my laboratory at the Cambridge
Veterinary School to continue his research. His latest enthusiasm was to
use Salmonella vaccine strains to deliver antigens from the worm
Echinococcus to dogs to try to break the transmission chain that
leads to humans with hydatidosis. This is a continuing collaborative
effort between Cambridge and scientists in Lyon, Montevideo, Tunisia and
Morocco: typical of the type of multinational collaboration that Carlos
was so good at generating and fostering. Carlos and Raquel spent about
half the year here in Cambridge and the other half in Uruguay where they
had built a new and beautiful house near Montevideo. This was idyllic in
many ways, and amongst the benefits it allowed stronger links to be
developed between scientists in the UK and Uruguay.
Carlos was very generous with his time, and always gave back to his
professional colleagues more than he took. He gave service to the SGM and
was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Microbiology of the ASM.
Carlos was larger than life. He was the type of man to develop an
enthusiasm, go into it until he understood everything about it, then
practice it assiduously. Such was his fascination with flying. He owned a
microlight plane in England and would always be out flying if the weather
was remotely sunny. He was a very careful and thorough pilot, and it is
with some incomprehension that I contemplate the fact the he died as a
passenger in a microlight being piloted by someone else. An appalling
waste of a superb man.
Carlos was a much loved and highly respected man and scientific
colleague, and we will all miss him terribly.
Duncan Maskell, University of Cambridge
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Ernest Frederick Gale FRS (15 July 1914-7 March
Ernest Gale, who has died at the age of 90, was Professor of Chemical
Microbiology in the University of Cambridge from 1960 to 1981. He made a
significant contribution to the Society's activities during its early
years. His major contribution to microbiology was in emphasizing the
chemical and enzymatic basis of microbial activities, at a time when many
cellular components and biochemicals were ill-defined. These ideas were
published in 1947 in the ground-breaking book The Chemical Activities
Ernest Gale spent 50 years in Cambridge, completing a degree in Natural
Sciences (Biochemistry) in 1936 and then a PhD in the Department of
Biochemistry under the direction of the late Dr Marjory Stephenson, FRS,
for studies on the adaptation of sugar-metabolizing enzymes in
Escherichia coli and factors that influence the deamination of
amino acids. This research led to a rapid and accurate method of
estimating free amino acids, which in turn facilitated the study of the
movement of amino acids into and out of bacterial cells. Using naturally
occurring amino acid auxotrophic strains of Staphylococcus aureus,
Gale showed that large intracellular concentrations of amino acids could
be accumulated. He was to be one of the first to use radiolabelled amino
acids, although his initial approach to Amersham to supply him with
14C-amino acids was met by resistance and the comment that
there would be no general scientific market for such esoteric products!
During the 1950s, Gale worked on the involvement of RNA in the
incorporation of amino acids into protein, using an in vitro system
from S. aureus. At that time it was not possible to separate the
different types of RNA, but he clearly saw that there were separate
effects, that a labile form of RNA was involved in enzyme induction and
synthesis, and moreover that DNA was responsible for organizing the
involvement of RNA in protein synthesis. With hindsight it is possible to
distinguish the effects of mRNA and tRNA in the results obtained, but at
the time they were part of a lively controversy, which Gale eventually
left to the likes of Crick and Monod to resolve.
Instead, Gale turned his attentions to the mode of action of
antibiotics, triggered not only by the finding that penicillin altered
bacterial permeability to amino acids and inhibited synthesis of the cell
wall, but also to an incident during World War II. Gale had received from
ICI a small sample of penicillin, but before he could use it for
laboratory experiments he received an emotional call from a clinical
colleague to help a nurse dying of a staphylococcal infection.
Administration of the penicillin produced a dramatic improvement in the
nurse's condition, but there was insufficient to continue treatment and
she died. This experience had a profound effect on Gale who devoted the
rest of his scientific career to the study of antibiotics. A succession of
PhD students and academic visitors to his laboratories investigated a wide
range of antibiotics, shedding light not only on their modes of action,
but also the elucidation of basic aspects of bacterial metabolism. His
book The Molecular Basis of Antibiotic Action remains a classic
text. Later he turned his attention to antifungal antibiotics,
particularly the polyenes and mechanisms of resistance.
The originality of Gale's research and its significance for the
development of microbiology was marked by the award of the ScD degree in
1947 and his election as a Fellow of The Royal Society in 1953. In 1948 he
became Director of the Medical Research Council Unit for Chemical
Microbiology or 'Microbiology Unit' (MBU) within the Department of
Biochemistry, and in 1960 the University of Cambridge created a personal
Chair of Chemical Microbiology for him. Although he was an efficient
administrator, Gale was happiest doing research and even when he was
Acting Head of the Biochemistry Department he still set aside a day when
he could work uninterruptedly in the laboratory. He held many
distinguished lectureships at home and abroad and travelled widely giving
lectures in Russia, the USA and Australia. He sat on several national and
international committees, including the International Union of
Biochemistry Commission on Enzymes from 1957 to 1961.
Ernest Gale was an excellent lecturer and laboratory teacher, his great
enthusiasm for his subject being very evident. He was much involved in the
radical reorganization of undergraduate teaching at Cambridge in the
mid-60s that saw the replacement of older disciplines with the newer
concepts of biology of cells. As a PhD supervisor, his aim was to instil
an ability in his students to think for themselves: he had an uncanny
ability to guide whilst allowing the freedom to explore without undue
pressure. Testimony to the success of his approach is found in the large
number of his students who have become leaders in academia and
Ernest Gale retired in 1983, moving from Cambridge to live in Salcombe,
Devon, where regular family holidays had been spent for many years. In
retirement he spent his time walking and swimming, reading thrillers not
scientific papers, and developing his considerable skills as a wood
carver. The last years of his life were blighted by virtually complete
loss of memory, and were spent in London closer to his family. To the end
he remained unassuming and dignified, somewhat ironically succumbing to a
pneumonia that not even the antibiotics that he had studied for a
professional lifetime could cure.
Nick Russell, Imperial College London
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Professor June Lascelles (23 January 1924-1 July
June Lascelles, Professor Emerita of Microbiology and Molecular
Genetics at the University of California, Los Angeles, died at her home in
Los Angeles, aged 80. June devoted her life to microbial biochemistry and to
those she taught and supervised. She had a tremendous and infectious enthusiasm for
research on a wide variety of micro-organisms, and she is particularly
well known for her work on the purple non-sulfur photosynthetic bacteria.
Her pioneering physiological and biochemical studies, which frequently
exploited mutants, provided fundamental insights into tetrapyrrole
biosynthesis and other metabolic processes, laying down foundations and concepts that are
still achieving new relevance in the post-genomic era.
June Lascelles was born and raised in Sydney, Australia. She graduated
from the University of Sydney with a First Class BSc degree in Biochemistry in 1944, followed
by an MSc in 1947. She was awarded an 1851
Exhibition Fellowship and elected to work in the Microbiology Unit of the Department
of Biochemistry in Oxford. Her supervisor was Donald Woods and with him
she established that pAB is converted to folic acid, that the conversion rate
is tenfold higher in sulfonamide-resistant organisms and that folates are
involved in amino acid biosynthesis. After receiving a DPhil in 1952, June
stayed in Oxford and was appointed Lecturer in Microbial Biochemistry in
At this stage she developed new projects in microbial biochemistry,
making very significant contributions to our understanding of the general
and respiratory metabolism of Staphylococcus aureus, the C- and
inorganic S-metabolism of photosynthetic bacteria, and she achieved early
distinction for her contribution to microbial porphyrin synthesis. An
important motivating factor for these studies was the value then attached to the use
of bacteria to inform on the basic metabolites and metabolic reactions of
higher organisms. Her tremendous enthusiasm for a wide diversity of
micro-organisms was confirmed during an exciting year (1956/7) spent with C.B. van
Niel at the Hopkins Marine Station (California) isolating and studying various
'exotics' like Thiovulum, Thiothrix and Cytophaga as well many
species of anoxygenic photosynthetics. Her broad approach is reflected in
publications addressing fundamental metabolic problems in at least 20
species ranging from Staphylococcus to Tetrahymena, Campylobacter
to Physarum, and Paracoccus to purple non-sulfur photosynthetics.
In 1965 June was invited to a Chair in Bacteriology at the University
of California, Los Angeles. A major theme of June's research from 1955 to
1980 was the synthesis and regulation of haem and bacteriochlorophyll
(Bchl) in Rhododobacter sphaeroides. This classic study established that
light and oxygen affect the synthesis of several enzymes used in the
biosynthesis of both haem and Bchl, and provided the basis of our current
understanding of tetrapyrrole synthesis in photosynthetic bacteria. She was one of the
first to select mutants having defects in tetrapyrrole synthesis, and
exploit them in identifying individual enzymic steps in the biosynthetic pathways.
June's influential scientific reviews and exceptional editorial and reviewing
skills were widely valued by scientists, publishers and grant-awarding
bodies, worldwide. June retired in 1989 and was made a Fellow of the American
Association for the Advancement of Science in 1990. She worked every day
until 2 years before her death.
June was modest and self-effacing but forthright, plain-speaking, proud
of her Australian heritage, and seriously professional. Her industry and
thoroughness are legendary. She was an extremely acute and reliable
critic and reporter of both scientific matters and human affairs. She had
a very positive attitude to life, a great sense of humour, and a highly
developed social conscience. She was no respecter of class, royalty or the
Church, and impatient of some of the ancient practices of Oxford college
life. Most of all she will be remembered for her great kindness and
generosity to young scientists. She was always approachable, prepared to
listen, took a genuine interest in their work, and gave wise counsel and
encouragement. Her death was announced to Departmental colleagues in words
that included, 'She will be missed as an accomplished scholar,
dedicated learner, highly respected experimentalist, unique role model and
John R. Guest, University of Sheffield, UK, & Howard Gest,
Indiana University, Bloomington, USA
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Professor Stanley (Stan) Williams
Emeritus Professor Stan Williams, University of Liverpool, died on
Thursday 23rd September 2004. He spent almost his entire academic life at
the University and met his wife Kath when they were both undergraduates
there. Latterly, Stan was Professor of Botany (1987-1992), Professor of
Microbiology (1992-1996) and Head of the Department of Genetics and
Microbiology prior to the formation of the School of Biological Sciences,
a process to which he gave his support before retiring.
Although Stan spent the great majority of his time in Liverpool, he had
a prominent profile as a scientist on the international stage. Stan was a
pioneer in the field of actinomycete biology and his research was devoted
to the study of actinomycete taxonomy and ecology, which was of particular
interest to the pharmaceutical industry for which this group of organisms
is such a rich source of antibiotics.
His appointment to the Bergey Trust - the international body that
oversees bacterial systematics - and the important work he did on their
behalf is testament to his stature, but the final accolade came in 2000
when he had a genus of bacteria named after him:
'Williamsia named to honour a British Microbiologist for his
numerous contributions to the taxonomy and ecology of actinomycetes'.
Stan numbered many friends amongst his colleagues right across the
University and will be sadly missed.
Back to top
Fred Brown (31 January 1925-20 February 2004)
Members of the Society will be saddened to learn of the death of Fred
Brown, FRS OBE, at the age of 79 on 20 February, 2004. With his passing we
lose another of the 'old school' of virologists who have had a major
impact on their chosen discipline over the past half century. Fred had a
long and influential relationship with the SGM and was elected as an
honorary member in 1991. He was Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of
General Virology from 1975 to 1980 and was its most prolific single
Fred hailed from Burnley and was a Lancastrian through and through.
After a brilliant career at Burnley Grammar School, of which he was
school, cricket and football captain, he studied chemistry at the
University of Manchester. Having obtained a first class degree he went on
to study carbohydrate chemistry for his doctoral degree. After working for
short spells at the Bristol University's Fruit and Vegetable Preservation
Station, the Hannah Dairy Research Institute and the Christie Hospital,
Fred joined the Foot-and-Mouth Disease Institute (as it was then) at
Pirbright in 1955, where he launched a career in virology that spanned
almost 50 years. There he established a molecular virology laboratory that
rivalled the best in the world for FMDV research. His vision and energy
inspired both the permanent staff at the Institute and a long list of
national and international visitors. He left the Institute to join
Wellcome Biotech as head of virology in 1983. He retired from Wellcome in
1990 and moved to the USA to continue working on FMDV at the USDA
laboratory at Plum Island. He moved back to the UK just 5 weeks before his
Fred's training as a chemist left him with a passionate desire to
understand the molecular details of the structure and function of viruses.
When he entered the field of FMDV little was known about the fine detail
of structure and composition of the virus. During his long career he saw
this change dramatically, in a large part due to his own efforts, from one
in which the number of proteins in the virus particle was unknown to the
current situation in which the disposition of (nearly) all of the atoms in
the virion is known, as is the precise nucleotide sequence of the genomic
RNA of many serotypes and strains. Just a few of the many steps along this
path to knowledge in which Fred was directly involved include:
demonstration of the infectivity of the viral RNA, unravelling the
antigenic structure of the virus, determining nucleotide sequences of the
viral RNA and the crystal structure of the virus particle. Although we
have come a long way, Fred would be the first to admit that we still have
a long way to go and he was still involved in FMDV research until a few
weeks before his death. Fred is best remembered for his Olympian status in
the FMDV world, but he also had broader virological interests. For
example, he was particularly supportive of the International Committee for
the Taxonomy of Viruses which he served from 1968 until 1987, being
President from 1981 to 1987.
Although devoted to fundamental research, Fred was always keen on
maximizing the practical application of his findings. For example, he
pioneered the development of alternatives to formaldehyde as the
inactivating agent for FMD vaccines, so providing the means to eliminate
the risk posed by residual live virus. Much later he demonstrated through
molecular 'detective' work that an outbreak in northern France in 1981
was, in fact, due to improperly inactivated vaccine. He studied viruses
such as VSV, VEV and SVDV that could be clinically confused with FMD in
part to improve differential diagnosis. He was always interested in
vaccine development and became deeply involved in attempts to
revolutionize vaccine production using synthetic peptides.
Fred was always a man of strong views and convictions (a typical
northerner) which were usually bluntly expressed. These characteristics
made him a valued committee member and he was asked to serve on many, such
as the Tyrrell committee on Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. He was
elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1981 and he was awarded the
OBE in 1999 in recognition of his service to British science. Fred did not
moderate his opinions during the catastrophic UK outbreak of FMD in 2001
and was a strong advocate of vaccination; it is probably lucky that he was
awarded his 'gong' before that tragedy emerged.
Fred was always highly supportive of young scientists and there are
many British (and other) virologists currently enjoying successful careers
who can look back fondly on their memories of Fred's support and
generosity in their formative years. He is survived by his wife, Audrey,
who is well known to many in the SGM, and their two sons, Roger and
Dave Rowlands is Professor of Molecular Virology in the Division of
Microbiology, School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the Faculty
of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
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David Hughes (10 April 1915-7 June 2003)
Professor David E. Hughes was the first Professor of Microbiology at
the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire (University
College Cardiff), from 1964 to 1982. Hughes brought to the Cardiff
department his enormous vitality and drive; he was a dynamo, and he made
everything seem possible. His vast experience ('as a problem-solver; I
started as a chemist, then became a biochemist, and now I don't know
what I am') was liberally shared in seminars by undergraduates and
senior staff alike. His sense of fun and of the ridiculous was infectious.
Twenty-seven of the students from an era that has become to many la
belle epoque of Cardiff microbiology have to date become
An iconoclastic figure, he is remembered for his devotion to
communication of the importance of microbiology to the general public, his
great curiosity, insight, wisdom and humanity. He was well known for his
outspoken and dismissive attitude to administrative red tape and
He had no time for people who talk about education; he was above all a
practical scientist, and his attitude to teaching and learning was
pragmatic and flexible. However, sometimes he was a master of
self-contradiction. Thus he was impatient of our peers from the humanities
('people who don't know how to wire a plug'), and yet his own
self-taught and eclectic understanding of ancient cultures, philosophy
and the fine arts often left his younger colleagues astonished.
Born in Islington at the beginning of the First World War, he left
school at 15 to become a microanalytical laboratory assistant at
University College, London. During his training as a microanalyst one of
his first tasks was to process thousands of gallons of pregnant
mares' urine, collected himself daily from the local stables across the
road. This work in the laboratory of Professor Guy Marrian led
eventually to the crystallization of oestradiol, the first sex hormone to
be isolated. Later David Hughes worked with Sir Jack Drummond and
Professor F.G. Young. His first involvement in microbiology came when Sir
Paul Fildes set up the MRC Unit for Bacterial Nutrition; this group
established the role of the B-group vitamins in bacterial growth, and more
specifically, the action of the sulphonamide drugs as competitive
inhibitors of p-aminobenzoic acid. This for the first time established a
rationale of antibacterial chemotherapy and paved the way for the
successful treatment of infections. Later during the year, David Hughes
(now a senior technician) and Professor Henry McIlwain were transferred
to the Department of Pharmacology at Sheffield by invitation of Professor
H.A. (later Sir Hans) Krebs. A BSc in Biochemistry was followed in
1953 by a PhD for work on the synthesis of the nicotinamide nucleotides in
bacteria. He joined the Unit for Research in Cell Metabolism at is
inception in 1974 and moved with Krebs to Oxford in 1954. His work at
Sheffield included the invention of a press for the breakage of bacteria
('Brute force and bloody ignorance - their walls are as strong as
reinforced concrete') driven by the impact of a very heavy weight
falling down a drainpipe. The Hughes Press, extensively used worldwide for
the release of enzymes, was described by its inventor (in his
citation classic) as 'a simple, perhaps crude device: 'crude, Hughes
crush' is now accepted in some journals. The comma is sometimes
misplaced, I suspect deliberately'. In 1961, he spent a year as
visiting Professor in the Microbiology Department of Dartmouth Medical
School at Hanover, New Hampshire, where he worked with Dr Clark Gray and
Julian Wimpenny on the effects of anaerobiosis and nitrate on enzyme
activities in bacteria. His work on the biological effects and uses of
ultrasound (with Wes Nyborg, Ernest Neppiras , Terry Coakley, Floyd Dunn,
and others) won him a prize from the American Acoustic Society.
On arrival at the age of 49 at Cardiff, to his first academic
appointment, his pioneering work on microbial structure and function
received a five-year period of support in the MRC Group established under his
direction. Subsequent achievements included activities of the Wolfson
Laboratory for industrial microbiology, including with Mr Ted Hill, some
of the earliest work on bioremediation of oil spillage in coastal
waters (Torrey Canyon Disaster, off the Cornish coast in 1967). Over the
next decade this group pioneered the scientific study of large scale
anaerobic digestion treatment plants for the treatment of farm and
domestic wastes and the recovery and use of methane.
In the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, General
Bacteriology had been taught by Professor R. McLean in the Botany
Department since 1946; a microbiology degree course was in place from
1958. At the time of its foundation under David Hughes as its first
Professor, the independent Department in Cardiff was one of only five in
the UK in 1964. Encouraged and supported by our first-rate young new
Principal, Bill Bevan, it expanded rapidly to a total of 10 academic
staff; the annual student intake was restricted to less than 20,'lest
we loose the family atmosphere of the place'. It soon became a hive of
activity and the egalitarian attitude of the leader ensured an
unusually happy working place.
Collaborative work across disciplines included work on civil and
mechanical engineering and metallurgy projects as well as more traditional
ones in agriculture and medicine. Work on microbial growth and
differentiation and novel continuous culture systems was also pursued. As
a highly energetic leader and innovator, as well as a mentor for young
scientists, David Hughes made a lasting and highly influential
In his long retirement Hughes was able to continue his wide-ranging
artistic activities. He had a long-standing interest in archaeology,
philosophy and in left-wing politics as well as science. He remarried and
divided his time fairly between Spain and St Neots.
At the 25th joint annual meeting of the Microbiology Departments of the
Aberystwyth and Cardiff Colleges of the University of Wales,
held at Gregynog in 1998, he gave a memorable lecture about his early
introduction to science by inspired teachers in East London, and his
early years as a lab boy. It was the last time we were to hear about his
unusually interesting formative years.
He was predeceased by Ivy and Gwen; he is survived by his third wife,
Sylvia, his children, Mary, Stephen and Richard, and his stepchildren
Brenda and Denny.
David Lloyd, Cardiff, UK
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John Smith (8 December 1924-22 November 2003)
John Smith, a pioneer in the field of nucleic acid research, helped to
establish the structure of RNA and to discover the methylation of the
bases in bacterial DNA. The information about the structure of RNA was
crucial to the double-stranded model of DNA proposed by Watson and Crick.
Later, he helped to unravel protein synthesis by establishing key
properties of transfer-RNA molecules.
John Derek Smith, the only child of an insurance inspector, was born in
Southampton on 8 December 1924. His early life was unhappy, being
marked by the death of both parents in a flu epidemic when he was 5 years
old. He was brought up in Wetherby by an aunt, and he spent holiday
periods in Worthing with another aunt. He attended, first, The Convent
High School in Wetherby and then King James' Grammar School in
Knaresborough. In both schools he was head boy. In 1942 he went up to
Clare College, Cambridge, to study Botany. After graduation, he joined the
Agricultural Research Council's virus research unit at the Molteno
Institute. Here, he and Roy Markham worked out how to separate by paper
electrophoresis single nucleotides and small oligonucleotides, obtained
from the RNA genomes of plant and animal viruses. They showed that under
the influence of a high voltage, the ribonucleotides and
oligoribonucleotides migrate across the moist paper with mobilities that
decrease with increasing size. Much later, the procedure became developed into the
separation of nucleic acid fragments by gel electrophoresis for sequencing
both RNA and DNA. Smith and Markham shared their results with colleagues
with common interests in the Chemistry Department, and, by 1952, thanks
to their joint efforts, the chemical structure of RNA had been
established. In the same year, Watson and Crick, also in Cambridge, and
with knowledge of the chemical analysis of RNA, built the iconic double helical
model of DNA.
Smith continued his work at the Molteno Institute where, with David
Dunn, he discovered the unexpected methylation of DNA bases in bacteria.
At the time, the biological significance of this finding was not
understood, but it is now known that bacteria methylate their DNA bases as
part of a defence mechanism to allow the DNA of invading viruses to be
recognized and digested selectively by bacterial restriction endonucleases.
In the late 1950s Smith went to work first at Berkeley and then at
Caltech (California Institute of Technology) where he demonstrated that
polyoma is a DNA virus. In 1962 he was recruited back to Cambridge as a
permanent member of staff of the newly founded Laboratory of Molecular
Biology, joining Francis Crick and Sydney Brenner in the Division of
Molecular Genetics, where he remained until his retirement in 1988.
In the 1960s Smith took part in research to understand the process of
how information encoded in DNA is used to make specific proteins. In
the late 1950s Francis Crick had proposed that transfer of information
from DNA is mediated by adaptor RNA molecules (later called transfer-
or tRNAs) carrying specific amino acids, which would then be arranged in
the correct order specified in the sequence of the messenger RNA. In
1964 Sydney Brenner found that a mutation in one tRNA overcame nonsense
codons in the messenger RNA. Instead of terminating, the protein chain
continued to elongate, and apparently, the mutation had changed the
genetic code of the organism. Smith and his colleagues demonstrated that
each tRNA has an anti-codon region complementary to the corresponding
codon in the message, and that mutations of the anti-codon of one
particular tRNA alter its properties making it complementary to a codon
that was not recognized usually, allowing it to be read as a specific
Smith was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1976. He was a
member of the Society for General Microbiology from 1945 and one of the
Society''s longest standing members.
John Smith was self-effacing, kind and humane. He was generous with his
time and ideas, given freely without any expectation of personal
benefit. He influenced and was respected by a wide range of young
scientists, many of them now distinguished across different areas of
molecular biology. He loved to converse, often with a cigarette in one hand
and pint of beer in the other, about diverse topics, including science, the
history of scientific discoveries and politics.
His marriage to Ruth Aney was dissolved in 1968.
Professor Sir John Walker, The Medical Research Council Dunn Human
Nutrition Unit, Cambridge, UK
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Jane Allen (14 December 1967-8 November 2003)
Jane Allen (Jane Kaye) died suddenly and unexpectedly on 8 November 2003.
The virological community in the UK have lost a still rising star
who made a series of seminal contributions in the field of HIV.
Jane Allen graduated in Biochemistry from University College Cardiff
with 1st class honours. She moved to Cambridge to do a PhD in Virology
supervised by Tony Minson working on Herpes simplex and produced a superb thesis
and several publications. She joined the research group of Andrew Lever as
Postdoctoral fellow to study HIV and when the new Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin
fellowships were announced, applied for and gained one of the first of
these prestigious awards. She went on to be awarded a Wellcome Trust career
development fellowship whilst in Cambridge and was appointed to NIBSC as Principal
Scientist in the Division of Retrovirology less than 2 years ago. While she was in
Cambridge she designed and performed the definitive experiments which
showed cotranslational genomic RNA packaging in HIV-2, the first time this had been
discovered in retroviruses. She went on to prove the hypothesis, based on her own
observation, of non-reciprocal packaging between HIV-1 and HIV-2, again a first.
These were landmarks in the study of HIV RNA packaging and it was Jane's superb
laboratory skills and her ability to produce such unarguable results that carried
this work into the literature. Her work was received with acclaim at the
retrovirus meetings in Cold Spring Harbor. Her later period in Cambridge led her
into the exploding area of cell proteins which interact with viruses and which
the viruses use and again she was at the cutting edge. She was one of the first to
identify TSG101 as an important cell protein used by HIV, involved in budding.
Jane leaves a remarkable scientific legacy and not only in the
excellent published papers. The standards of work she set for herself and
the quality of her results were an example to all who worked with her. Students,
technicians, research assistants and senior scientists all came to respect
her perfectionism and her striving for scientific truth. She was truly a gifted scientific
Jane was not just a highly talented researcher, she was a great person
to know in and out of the lab and someone who inspired just as much
affection as she did respect through her warmth, humour and generosity. She will
be profoundly missed as much as a friend as a colleague by very many people
present and past in Cambridge and at NIBSC as well as in the retroviral research community
Jane remarried in 2001 and her second child, a son, Luka, was born
earlier this year. Deepest sympathies go to Edwin her husband, Emma and
Luka and all the rest of her family.
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David Kelly (17 May 1944-18 July 2003)
David Kelly's tragic death at the age of 59 has illustrated all too
readily the problems that arise when a scientist, seeking to retain
professional integrity, becomes caught up in establishment power politics.
David was born in Wales and took his first degree at Leeds. He decided
to specialize in virology and completed the MSc course organized by Peter
Wildy at Birmingham before moving to the NERC Unit of Invertebrate Virology at
Oxford to undertake postgraduate research with Tom Tinsley on insect
After graduating with a DPhil in 1971 he did a post-doctoral project
with Nigel Dimmock at Warwick on influenza virus before returning to the
Oxford Unit as a staff member in 1974 to continue his interests in insect
viruses. The next few years were very productive and he published a series
of important papers on the molecular properties of a number of members of the
Iridoviridae and the baculoviruses.
In 1984 he was attracted to the Chemical and Biological Defence
Establishment at Porton Down, eventually becoming the Head of
Microbiology. One of his first major tasks was to oversee the decontamination of
Gruinard Island, the site of wartime experiments on anthrax. During this time he also
utilized the category 4 containment facilities to carry out valuable research on the
molecular and antigenic properties of simian herpes B virus (which is
endemic in monkeys and almost always fatal in humans).
His first venture onto the international scene occurred in October 1989
when he was called on to help in the debriefing of Vladamir Pasechnik, a
Soviet defector. This revealed the massive extent of the Soviet bioweapons (B/W)
programme and, as a consequence, in 1991 he co-led a UK/US delegation to
inspect Soviet biowarfare institutes. It was during this visit that, largely
through David's probing and virological expertise, it became evident that
there was an ongoing programme of smallpox research and development at Novosibirsk in
Siberia - contrary to the international agreement on the cessation of all
work on smallpox.
His expertise in the detection of bioweapons was, by now,
internationally established and this was recognized by the UK government
with the award of the CMG. He played a leading role in the UNSCOM team which uncovered
the five bioweapons facilities in Iraq in 1994 and he supervised their dismantling.
In all, he made over 36 visits to Iraq and was preparing for another visit a few
days before his death. His colleagues in the UNSCOM team described David
as 'quiet, persistent, well-informed and scientifically indomitable'. It was typical
of David that, in spite of his travails there, he came to love Iraq and
admired the Iraquis (see Plague Wars by Tom Mangold and Jeff Goldberg).
There is no doubt that the UK has lost a formidable scientist - one of
the very few microbiologists who had real expertise in bioweapons. His
professional colleagues will miss his courtesy, his quiet humour, his ability to make
friends easily and his wide knowledge of the more practical aspects of
virology. Among his many enthusiasms was a passion for Welsh rugby, a keen support
for Leeds United and an ability to play the saxophone with some verve. We
grieve with his wife, Jan and daughters Sian, Ellen and Rachel on the sudden and
tragic loss of an exceptional husband and father.
Willie Russell, University of St. Andrews, UK
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Sir Robert Williams (30 June 1916-24 May 2003)
Sir Robert (R.E.O.) Williams was one of the outstanding figures in medical
microbiology, public health and medical education of the last half
century. He combined scientific work of the highest calibre with outstanding
administrative achievements and won respect and admiration for both.
Born in London in 1916 into a medical family (his father, Gwyn, was a
consultant surgeon and, for a period, Dean at University College Hospital,
London), he did his medical studies and a degree in physiology at University
College and University College Hospital, London, qualifying in 1940. After
a house physician post at the same hospital, he joined the emergency medical service as a
pathologist, in fact a microbiologist, and worked with the Medical
Research Council's Infection Unit at the Birmingham Accident Hospital under Professor
(later Sir) Ashley Miles, an inspirational influence on a young microbiologist.
It was in Birmingham that Williams began his ground-breaking studies on the sources
and spread of wound infections and hospital cross-infection, work that is
as relevant today as it was in the 1940s and 50s. He concentrated initially on
infections of wounds of the hands, which were common in the light
engineering factories in Birmingham.
A second major influence on Williams, G.S. (later Sir Graham) Wilson,
the visionary founder and first Director of the Public Health Laboratory
Service, had recently devised a method for differentiating strains of Staphylococcus
aureus, the commonest wound-infecting bacterium, based upon their
susceptibilities to bacteriophages. Williams defined and elaborated this 'phage typing scheme
and applied it to the study of sources and routes of transmission of this
major wound pathogen. He published the 'phage typing method in 1952 and, using this
technique, he showed how wounds could be 'self-colonized' by S. aureus from the
patient's own nose or skin. He also showed that infections with group A
streptococci usually originated outside the patient. He was one of the
first to recognize the practical importance of high-resolution typing to identify the sources and
links between different cases of infection, in his case wound infections.
This remains a major function of the reference laboratories that became such an
important part of his life. Our understanding of the worldwide epidemics
of staphylococcal wound infection of the 1950s and 1960s was almost entirely
due to the strain discrimination provided by 'phage typing.
In 1946, Williams had moved to the Central Public Health Laboratory at
Colindale, North London, to the Streptococcal, Staphylococcal and Air
Hygiene laboratory and he became Director of that laboratory in 1949. His work on
wound contamination covered the varied contributions of direct contact,
large falling droplets and air-suspended droplets, and showed many of the
environmental factors that affected these routes of transmission in
different hospital settings.
By now recognized as an international authority, he provided simple
guidance on how to prevent wound infections and how to treat them and, in
1960, he was one of the authors of the first classical book on hospital-acquired
infections, which remains as highly relevant for today's infection control
teams as it was then to those of us who would follow in his footsteps.
In 1960 he was lured back into clinical academic medicine as Professor
of Microbiology at St Mary's Hospital Medical School. He was the first
full-time academic Dean of St Mary's from 1967 to 1973, bringing the innovative
approach of his bacteriological research to the running of a medical
school. He was also a member of the Medical Research Council from 1969 to 1973. 1973
marked the last major phase of his professional life when he returned to
the PHLS at Colindale as Director of the Service, with its central reference
laboratories and network of regional and area laboratories, based in
hospitals where they combined diagnostic and epidemiological work. During the same period, he
was elected President of the Royal College of Pathologists (1975-78) and
in a pioneering move for a medical Royal College, he guided the extension of
membership to include medical scientists who were not medically qualified.
He was knighted in 1976.
Under his direction, the PHLS enlarged its responsibilities with the
establishment of the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre in 1977 and
then the addition of the Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research, Porton Down,
in 1979. Before he retired in 1981, he was closely involved in planning
and designing the new institute at Colindale to house both CPHL and CDSC. This
was his physical legacy to microbiology and public health services, but
his real legacy to medicine and science has formed the basis of many of the
developments of the last 20 years. He was one of the classical tradition
of doctors who were also important medical scientists. Throughout, he remained an
unassuming and approachable man with a good sense of humour. He was always
available and his advice was generously given and always supportive.
In 1944, he married Margaret Lumsden; she died in 1990. They are
survived by a son and two daughters, one of whom followed her father into
microbiology and works for the World Health Organization.
Brian I. Duerden, Professor of Medical Microbiology, University of
Wales College of Medicine; lately, Director, Public Health Laboratory
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Last updated 25 May 2011/i>
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