Dr John Harbridge CChem MRSC

3 July 1939 to 18 March 2020

Image of Dr John Harbridge CChem MRSC

John was very proud of his 60-year membership of RSC and kept his certificate on display. John lived in Dorking, Surrey with wife Rosemary; he died of Covid-19.

His chemistry training was not the conventional BSc then PhD route but one that was widely used via the Royal Institute of Chemistry qualification Graduate of the Institute (GRIC), equivalent to a 2i degree, then PhD at the Chelsea School of Pharmacy.

The timelines for his long connection with chemistry are:

Southend Technical College
Part-time day release while student chemist and routine analyst at May & Baker
1957 -  ONC Chemistry
1958 - A-level Physics
1959 - HNC Chemistry

Pfizer, Sandwich
Research Technician

Borough Polytechnic
HNC ancillary microbiology & maths
1961 - GRIC (i)
1964 - GRIC (ii)
Arranged practicals for paint tech students

Smith Kline French, Welwyn Garden City
Senior Research Technician, then Research Officer

Chelsea College, University of London, Pharmacy Department
Research student, supervised classes
1969 - PhD 'synthesis and properties of azachromones'

Beecham Pharmaceuticals, SmithKline Beecham, GSK
Research Chemist, notably clavulanic acid derivatives. Organised "Young Scientist" days.
1969-1977 - Senior Scientific Officer
1977-1995 - Principal Scientific Officer

Beacon School, Banstead
Senior Laboratory Technician, then worked voluntarily in their science department until 2019

involved with RSC Downland Local Section committee activities and helping young students.

At Beecham he initially worked on ampicillin (one of the early penicillins) analogues in the original research labs in Brockham Park House later moving into the research labs in the newly constructed building on the south of the site.  There he worked on other broad-spectrum antibiotics, then on beta lactamase inhibitors (an enzyme that destroys penicillins) and related speculative compounds.

Throughout his career he was an excellent mentor to other chemists, often with 'out of the box' suggestions and he helped several young technicians understand chemistry concepts.  

His interests were very wide-ranging and included electronics,  photography, sailing, bridge, music, skiing, helping young people understand science, helping at Yehudi Menuhin school, governor at Wilson's School Sutton, active with Beecham retired staff group meetings at Brockham, Dorking U3A science group (several presentations on penicillins and scientific areas), French (took AL French twice, 2002, 2005, both B grades).  

As an RSC Downland Local Section committee member, he helped with Greenacre School open days, Chemistry Challenge question-setting (and typically marking 120+ scripts) and running practicals for finals, Kitchen Cupboard Chemistry across Surrey & Sussex, and retired members social lunches.  

His colleague Ken Utting whom he met in December 1969 wrote "the impression is of a man, knowledgeable, competent, kind hearted and, like the Downland committee, committed to promoting the love of chemistry to the younger generation".  

John wrote "I want to continue to make a contribution to scientific life".  How true, and what a legacy.


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