Alfred's career began when he gained a first class external degree in chemistry from London University. This was probably one of the hardest ways to gain a degree in those days. It was all done by night time study after completing his day's work. Not only did he gain a first class degree but he was top of his year.
His public service was in the analytical laboratories of two cities - Hull and Birmingham. He worked for Birmingham City Council between 1959 - 1980, ultimately being appointed the Chief Public City Analyst for Birmingham before his retirement, analysing the city's food and drugs.
Professionally the post in Birmingham was considered to be the highest in the profession as London tended to have separate analysts for each borough. He pioneered some ground-breaking scientific developments such as showing the link between lead poisoning from petrol additives to retarded learning in children. He demonstrated the benefits to dental care of adding fluoride to the public water supply. He also helped to pioneer the use of gas liquid chromatography in conjunction with Loughborough University as a tool for analysing the purity of foodstuffs.
He became a long standing member of the Royal Society of Chemistry right up to 2013 eventually being elected as a Fellow.
His work was not without its amusing moments. On one occasion he had to give evidence against a farmer who was fraudulently diluting milk. Alfred was able to refute the farmer's defence that the cows had to pass through a stream on the way to the milking parlour and picked up water into their udders. The case was reported in several national newspapers at the time.
Colleagues testify that he was not only the top of his profession but was always ready to help others and ran training courses on how to be a City Analyst for newcomers.
Alfred passed away peacefully at the age of 97 years in a nursing home in Southport on 24th October 2013. He is survived by his wife Mrs Betty Coombes aged 93 (they had been married for 73 years) also by two children, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Dr Margaret Boneham, daughter of Mr Alfred Coombes