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Issue 474, 3 December 2001

Professor Ron Grigg

Ron Grigg started his scientific career as a chemistry technician at Glaxo Laboratories, and worked there from 1952 to 1960, at the same time following a part-time degree course for which he was awarded a GRIC in 1960. This was followed by PhD work at Nottingham University, and postdoctoral research at Cambridge in a team led by Nobel Laureate, Alexander Todd. He was appointed to a lectureship in organic chemistry at Nottingham in 1965 and remained there until 1974 when he accepted the Chair of Organic Chemistry at Queen's University, Belfast. He returned to England in 1989 as Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Leeds.

During his time in Belfast, Ron laid the foundations for a number of research projects which in the intervening years have proved to be extraordinarily productive. His detailed exploration of the cycloadditions of 1,3-dipoles generated by proton transfer constitutes a major contribution to synthetic methodology, as does his work on 'cascade' reactions involving organopalladium chemistry. The latter work is based on a thorough understanding of the relative rates of reaction of organopalladium intermediates with a variety of other species, so that careful experimental design provides the equivalent of several of these species in the same reaction vessel 'queueing up' in an orderly fashion to undergo reaction at just the right time in a multistep sequence. Both of these technologies allow the controlled synthesis of topologically and stereochemically complex substances in a highly economical fashion. Another strand of his work, the discovery of new reagents for fingerprint detection, has been exploited by police forces all around the world.

The pharmaceutical industry have always taken a keen interest in Ron's work and demonstrated it by their continuing financial support. The chemistry pioneered by Ron has proved to be particularly suited to the combinatorial, automated methods of synthesis which burst into prominence in the 1990s. The multidisciplinary centre for Molecular Innovation Diversity and Automated Synthesis (MIDAS), founded by Ron, (who remains the Director), focuses on the development of new methodology for combinatorial chemistry and its application to drug discovery. The fact that the robots in the Centre continue to carry out experiments long after the human co-workers have taken to their beds must be a continuing source of satisfaction!

In the course of his career, Ron has received numerous important national and international awards and prizes in recognition of the excellence of his work, including the Tilden and Pedler Lectureships of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society. He is a much sought after plenary lecturer at conferences and continues to travel widely to present his work. Outside the laboratory, Ron is a keen swimmer and enjoys watching football. We take this opportunity to wish Ron and his wife Jean all the best for the future, although his appointment as Research Professor means that for many years to come we can look forward to seeing him around the University and hearing about the new results generated by his research group.

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