Harold F. Hodson


13 August 1932 – 8 March 2021



Harold Hodson photo


Harold Hodson, a distinguished scientist in the pharmaceutical industry who played a major part in setting up degree courses in Medicinal Chemistry at Sussex, has died at the age of 88.


He was born in Stafford and was educated at King Edward VI Grammar School there.  A childhood love of chemistry led him in 1950 to attend the newly established University of Keele as one of its first, pioneering students.  The University was founded as a joint venture between Oxford University, the University of Manchester and the Workers Educational Association, with an unusually broad academic agenda designed to ensure that students gained an all-round education in natural and social sciences alongside their chosen specialist subjects.  The Vice Chancellor had been Master of Balliol College Oxford and it is interesting to note that this interdisciplinary approach was adopted by the University of Sussex some years later with John Fulton, another Balliol man, as its founding Vice Chancellor.

After his first degree, Harold moved to work with two giants in the chemistry of naturally occurring alkaloids, compounds which exhibit a variety of pharmacological activities.  He was first a PhD student with George Smith at Manchester and then a post-doctoral research worker with Alan Battersby at Bristol.

He moved from Bristol to the Wellcome Research Laboratories at Beckenham and stayed there for most of his career.  He rose to be Head of Organic Chemistry but it was his unusually wide range of scientific knowledge, ranging from pure chemistry to the medicinal and pharmacological sciences that made him especially valuable to the company.  His experience and knowledge of the biological side of the research meant that he was sought-after as a partner in many important research programmes.  He co-authored around 275 patents in addition to a number of peer-reviewed scientific publications, one of which had nearly 2000 citations—a truly impressive number!

In the early 1980s, Harold’s interest in scientific education led to his involvement with the School of Molecular Sciences at Sussex in setting up first a Master’s degree and later a Bachelor’s degree in Medicinal Chemistry.  His wide scientific interests allowed a comprehensive course to be developed and he was able to persuade scientists in the pharmaceutical industry to give freely of their time and expertise in teaching courses in a range of relevant disciplines.  Harold contributed not only to the planning of the courses but also to teaching of parts of them.  The degrees ran at Sussex for two decades and many of our students found fulfilling careers in the pharmaceutical industry.

Scientists from Wellcome were joined in this project by others from Glaxo, thanks to Dr Dick Storer, a Sussex graduate, and, as time passed and people moved companies, industrial input to the courses widened.


The University recognised Harold’s contributions by appointing him an Honorary Visiting Professor.


Harold’s service on the committee of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Bio-Organic Group led to the start of a successful UK-wide annual meeting for post-graduate students and sponsorship of a variety of international meetings, including a meeting at Oxford to celebrate the 75th birthday of the Sussex Nobel Prizewinner, Sir John Cornforth.


Harold is survived by his wife Winnie, his children Karen, Andrea and Neil, and seven grandchildren.


Douglas Young


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