Sussex chemist and Nobel prizewinner features in Google Doodle
A Nobel Prize-winning University of Sussex chemist is being celebrated as today’s Google Doodle.
Sir John Warcup Cornforth, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday today (7 September), arrived at Sussex in 1975 – the same year he became a Nobel laureate for his work on the stereochemistry of enzyme-catalysed reactions.
Although he had retired from Sussex in 1982, where he was Royal Society Professor of Chemistry, he continued in research until he was nearly 90. He died in 2013 at the age of 96.
Born in Sydney, Sir John began to lose his hearing at the age of 10 and was profoundly deaf by the time he completed his undergraduate degree in chemistry at the University of Sydney.
He came to England to take up a scholarship at Oxford and went on to work at the Medical Research Council, and Shell’s Milstead Laboratory of Chemical Enzymology, where he helped identify the intimate and complex detail of how cholesterol is synthesised from simple building blocks in nature. It was this work that led to his Nobel Prize.
After his death, a former Sussex colleague, Professor Douglas Young, recalled: “In spite of his deafness, Kappa [Cornforth’s nickname] gave inspiring undergraduate and postgraduate lectures that were models of clarity.
“His presence in the research laboratories inspired members of other research groups as well as his own and he helped many young research students to overcome technical problems with kindness and understanding based on years of experience.
“In research seminars his comments were invariably extremely perceptive, although he would not have heard a word that the speaker had said.”
Married to fellow scientist Rita Harradence, who died in 2012 at the age of 97, Sir John once said during a lecture in Sydney in 1992: “When Rita and I were learning our chemistry here, chemistry was not really very difficult. There was not really all that much to know. Now I am sorry for you people because there really is a lot to know.”