The RSC lost one of its longest serving members when Alistair MacLean passed away at the age of almost 96, having joined its predecessor, the Royal Institute of Chemistry in 1941. He was born in Beauly in Inverness-shire and was educated at Inverness Royal Academy where he won a scholarship to the University of Edinburgh in 1936 where he read Chemistry, graduating BSc in 1939 and then completing a PhD in 1941 completing a thesis on "1-substituted Carbazols" (courses were shortened at that time due to the Second World War).
He joined the firm of British Drug Houses in London in 1941 and he recalled that one of his first tasks was to prepare an organic intermediate which required treatment of a benzene solution with phosgene gas (the first gas used in the 1914 - 1918 war). Benzene vapour is now known to be associated with the development of leukaemia, so he was given a distance mask and allowed to set up his apparatus on the bank of the canal which divided the BDH buildings on either side. No Health & Safety in those days but the mask must have been effective as he survived into his 90's! He also worked with other teams on the synthesis of penicillin. He had hoped to join the Colonial Service Scientific Research department but that aspiration had to be postponed until after the Second World War. However in 1946 he was appointed to the West Africa Cocoa Research Institute (WACRI) at Tafo in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) where he worked for 7 years, researching the causes of disease in that country's most important cash crop of cocoa. Alistair left the Colonial Service in 1954 and took up a position at Edinburgh Pharmaceutical Industries (EPI), a medicinal research firm based in Edinburgh where he worked for 9 years, and then in 1963 had his final change of career when he retrained as a teacher, and after a spell at Boroughmuir School, he secured a position as a Lecturer in Organic Chemistry at Napier College (later University) in Edinburgh where he remained until retirement in the early 1980s. He loved the world of teaching and imparting knowledge to his students and would spend hours researching and writing his lectures.
He served as the Area Secretary for the RIC and was the Scottish Representative on the Benevolent Fund, giving over 42 years' service to the Society. The Benevolent Fund role gave him immense pleasure and he travelled many miles around Scotland to visit members, asses their needs and offer assistance to them and their dependents. He was hugely proud of the help which the Benevolent Fund was able to give to so many members and wrote up his notes meticulously to present to the committee at their quarterly meetings. In 2009 he was presented with the Society's Gold medal as a token of their appreciation for over 60 years' service to the RSC.
In his spare time and in retirement he was a keen sportsman, playing golf regularly at Gullane in East Lothian, as well as being a leading member of Braid Bowling Club. He enjoyed choral music singing in the bass section of the Edinburgh Royal Choral Union for over 30 years, and he and his wife Mary shared a love of walking and exploring the wild areas of Scotland as well as in Switzerland where they returned to Wengen for over 20 years to study the alpine flora which was a particular interest to both Mary and Alistair. He also served as Honorary Secretary of Edinburgh University Graduates Association for 21 years.
He was married to Mary, a fellow Edinburgh science graduate, for 70 years, who survives him along with his son Donald and daughter Margaret, six grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. His elder son David predeceased him in 1993.
Margaret Winter, July 2014