10 April 1953 - 25 April 2015
The fine chemicals industry lost one of its greatest characters when Dave Ager, principal scientist at DSM Innovative Synthesis, died on 25 April 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina. He had just turned 62.His passing came as a great shock, since he had seemed in good form just before Xmas when I last saw him.
Dave was born on 10 April 1953 in Northampton, UK. He studied for his BSc at Imperial College London in 1974 and carried out his PhD in Organic Chemistry with Ian Fleming at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1977. He then spent time as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Southampton, as a senior demonstrator at the University of Liverpool and, moving to the US, as an assistant professor at the University of Toledo.
He became well known in industry during his 14 years with NSC Technologies from 1986 to 2000, where he was heavily involved in the development of Nutrasweet and as an industrial scientist focusing on fine chemicals and pharmaceutical intermediates. After a short time with Great Lakes Fine Chemicals and a period as a consultant, he joined DSM in 2002 as a competence manager for homogeneous catalysis, later becoming a technical marketer for DSM Pharmaceutical Products.
Dave attended more conferences and exhibitions than anyone else in the industry. He wanted to update his knowledge and he liked to mix with like-minded individuals, particularly those who liked science and beer! His presence enlightened any conference whether he was presenting, which he liked to do, or not; he always asked intelligent, perceptive and often witty questions which helped any event, not only to have top quality science but also to be fun to attend. Dave's good humour enhanced any conference he attended, as he led participants to the bar or arranged a visit to an interesting restaurant.
Dave was well-known and well liked by all who met him and always recognisable by his characteristic shoulder length hair. Whilst attending the CPhI Exhibition, he would organise a "hospitality event" late in the day at the DSM stand and this would be packed out with his business contacts, who soon became his friends. This was his way of doing business and he was a very successful businessman as well as being an excellent scientist. He was on the board of several companies and helped to set up a few.
But Dave should not only be remembered for his social skills and his love of beer; he was an outstanding chemist who had worked in both academia and industry. He published widely, wrote some excellent reviews and also edited a couple of books on Chiral Chemistry, where the emphasis was always towards processes and industrial applicability. (Reprinted (adapted) with permission from Org. Process Res. Dev., 2015, 19 (6), pp 595-595 Copyright 2015 American Chemical Society.)
He loved to write reviews and book chapters; one of his first reviews in 1982 was on "Silicon-containing Carbonyl Equivalents" and amongst his many publications in the 1980s on silicon chemistry was an Organic Reactions review on the "Petersen Olefination reaction", which has been cited many times. Unusually for that time, Dave's non-review publications in the 1980s are often single author publications; he was clearly a good and prolific experimentalist as well as a good thinker and speaker.
Later on his interests turned to chiral chemistry, biocatalysis, and the chemistry of amino acids in particular and this gave rise to many papers published during his time at NSC Technologies. When he moved to DSM he retained this interest in chiral technologies and homogeneous hydrogenation in particular. A review of particular interest to process chemists is on "Asymmetric Homogeneous Hydrogenations on Scale (Chem Soc Rev, 2012, 41(8), 3340-80) written with his colleagues and great friends Andre and Johannes de Vries.
Dave was also interested in asymmetric oxidations, setting up some academic collaborations on this theme, and in 2012 he published an excellent chapter on "Industrial Applications of Asymmetric Oxidation" in Comprehensive Chirality (2012, 9, 104-12) which covers the whole field. He was widely interested in Green Chemistry and recently published a chapter on "Copper Catalysed Coupling for a Green Process" with Johannes de Vries in the book "Transition Metal-Catalysed Couplings in Process Chemistry" edited by Javier Magnano and Josh Dunetz (2013, 1-13)
His most recent review was on "Popular Synthetic Approaches to Pharmaceuticals" written for the journal Synthesis (2015, 47(6) 760-768). He loved to write and his publications reveal the enthusiasm he had for science and technology and particularly process chemistry, which he loved almost as much as beer.
With the passing of Dave Ager we have sadly lost one of the great characters of process chemistry, who was an excellent chemist, presenter, teacher and a great presence wherever he went - and he travelled extensively even when he was ill. He was well-known and respected all over the world and he will be sorely missed. There was no-one quite like Dave! He was unique!
Trevor Laird Associates Ltd
Waldron, East Sussex, UK