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A             lumni

              Science Fact and Fiction                           Chemistry, the DP and me

              Hugh MacBride (Lincoln 1957) completed his BA and   Dr Peter Dean (Jesus 1959) founded several companies,
              DPhil at Oxford.   He became a researcher and worked   including Cambio Ltd, a molecular biology company
              on steroids, including ‘the pill’ at BDH Chemicals for 2   specialising in technology transfer, after working in
              years, followed by organic fluorine chemistry at Durham   research for 15 years at the University of Liverpool.
              for 5 years before moving to Sunderland Polytechnic for   Now retired, he enjoys sculpture, model ship building
              18 years. After taking early retirement from Sunderland   and painting.  A selection of recent work can be seen at
              he continued to work on short research contracts at
              Durham for another 13 years.  Now retired from from
              the world of chemistry, Hugh writes science fiction   When I was 10 years old, my mother equipped the spare
              stories, including his latest book, Wormhunter (http://  room as a lab, enabling me to pursue an obsession that has
             lasted for well over 60 years. My sister warned that I would
              ebook/dpB01BZ8WQAM).  Hugh shares some             blow them all up any time soon which might have taught
              memories of his time at Oxford Chemistry, and describes   caution. The DP spectacularly caught fire whilst I was
              a novel way to explain how NMR works.              attending New College Choir School – nothing to do with
                                                                 me!  The nickname we had for the building was ‘the fire
              I came up to Lincoln to read Chemistry in 1957, the   house’; it must have triggered something in the young Dean
              year after my National Service.  My tutor at Lincoln was   brain since I called in to Cameron’s the chemist in the High
              Rex (later Sir Rex) Richards, and I did my Part II on   at about this time and explained I needed a litre of conc.
              nitrogen-heterocyclic chemistry under the supervision of   sulphuric.  The answer was ‘no problem’ and ‘would there
              Ben Brown in the DP.  I stayed with him for a DPhil. on   be anything else?’  Conc. nitric and conc. hydrochloric,
              flavonoid compounds, working in room 51, on the corridor   came the reply.  I cycled home with this precious load in
              parallel to the front of the PCL.  I used to visit my dig-  glass bottles in a pannier bag with a big grin on my face.
              mate, Peter Kolker in his lab, where he was working on a   I knew from reading recipes that I could make almost
              project involving NMR with Rex Richards.  The NMR   anything now.
              that Rex had built in his research lab in the basement
              had two rather tall steel stanchions on either side of the   I applied to Jesus College to read chemistry and when I
              magnet. There were two or three Australian Post-docs in   arrived as a fresher, I thought the place must be paradise.
              his lab and I recall seeing one of them, Ted Wells, sitting   I rapidly got to grips with the chemistry course. Terry
              at the spectrometer watching a green caterpillar crossing   Cooper (Balliol) and I were friends and had read of the
              the screen of his oscilloscope (an ex-radar CRT I imagine)   exploits of HR Perkins in the DP.  Apparently he had
              with a spike for each resonance.   An Australian voice   completed the chemistry degree course in one year!  Terry
              from further down the lab called ‘What’s the score, Ted?’   and I discovered that a statute governing the provision of
              There was a Test Match on.  Ted turned a knob on his   lessons in practical chemistry stated something to the effect
              panel and the West Country tones of John Arlott, the   that ‘demonstrators will be provided so long as students
              cricket commentator, filled the lab describing a stroke just   were there to receive instruction’.  We spent as many hours
              played and giving the score. I saw that Arlott’s voice came   as we could completing the organic course and all our
              from a small speaker fixed to the top of one of the magnet   samples were submitted before the end of the first term
              stanchions. Ted readjusted the knob to get the caterpillar   in the DP.  We must have been very unpopular with the
              back.                                              demonstrators, one of whom, Jeremy Knowles, was not
                                                                 amused.   At the end of term Professor Sir Ewart Jones’
              This incident was useful when I had to teach the basic   secretary asked us to go up to his lab immediately since he
              principles of NMR, showing that the detector is essentially   wished to have a few words!  ‘What did we think we were
              a radio receiver, and the frequency (at that time) not too   doing and more importantly now we had done everything
              different from broadcasting ones.                  required of us in practical organic chemistry outside of Part
                                                                 II, what were the staff going to give us to do?’  The answer

              Periodic       The Magazine of the Department of Chemistry
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