Andrew Pelter, Professor Emeritus of Swansea University, died on March 16, 2019 at the age of 87. He was born in London on November 20, and studied chemistry at Bristol University, where he also gained his PhD degree under the supervision of Professor W. D. Ollis. He then joined the group of J. W. Cornforth ("Kappa", who went on to receive the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1975 and was knighted in 1977) at the Medical Research Council, and this collaboration was a major influence on Andrew's professional development. He started his independent academic career at Manchester University, where he collaborated initially with another great Australian chemist, A. J. Birch, while also continuing to interact with Cornforth. He was rapidly promoted to a senior lectureship and established the independent research lines that would be prominent for the rest of his career - the study of oxygen heterocycles/natural products and the application of boron reagents in organic synthesis. The former was a natural progression from his earlier collaborative work, and his first foray into boron chemistry, utilizing tris(dialkylamino)boranes, was also inspired by the need for a new method for synthesis of enamines arising from a collaboration with Cornforth on a possible synthesis of vitamin B12 (see J. Chem. Soc., 1965, 5142).
Among Andrew's many contributions to oxygen heterocycle chemistry during his Manchester period, he made significant advances in the application to structure elucidation of physical/spectroscopic techniques such as mass spectrometry (see, for example, J. Chem. Soc. C, 1967, 1376) and solvent shifted NMR (Tetrahedron Lett., 1969, 4259) and used such techniques in helping solve the structures of many natural products. In the boron chemistry area he became interested in organoboron reactions and his group began to study electrophile-induced rearrangement reactions of unsaturated organoborates. The first publication in this area, involving synthesis of ketones from trialkylcyanoborates (J. Chem. Soc. D, Chem. Commun., 1970, 1529; see also J. Chem. Soc., Perkin Trans. 1, 1975, 129, et seq.), attracted immediate international attention, including from leading organoboron scientist H. C. Brown (who went on to win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1979 for his work on hydroboration and the applications of organoboranes). Brown visited Manchester to meet Andrew and the two became long term friends.
In 1971 Andrew moved to University College of Swansea (now known as Swansea University) as Professor of Organic Chemistry, where he remained until his retirement in 1999, after which he became Emeritus Professor. During his time in Swansea he served periods as Head of the Chemistry Department and as Vice Principal of the University, and it was at Swansea that he built his international research reputation. Throughout his career, he developed original research programs in synthetic organic chemistry, building on his oxygen heterocycle and organoboron work. He became a pioneer in demonstrating the utility in organic synthesis, inter alia, of alkynylborates (see, for example, J. Chem. Soc., Perkin Trans. 1, 1976, 2419, et seq.) and of highly hindered organoboron groups, particularly for stabilizing carbanions (see Tetrahedron Lett., 1983, 24, 623, et seq.). His boron research was recognized in the awarding of the Tilden Medal of the RSC in 1981. He also continued to elucidate the structures of natural products such as bonellin (see J. Chem. Soc., Perkin Trans. 1, 1980, 1080), to synthesize complex compounds such as lignans related to the podophyllotoxin series (see J. Chem. Soc., Perkin Trans. 1, 1988, 1603), and to develop synthetic reactions of oxygen heterocycles such as Diels-Alder reactions of furfuryl alcohols (see J. Chem. Soc., Perkin Trans. 1, 1983, 1383). Altogether, his scientific contributions were reported in over 300 papers and reviews, and he also wrote several chapters and co-authored a book (Borane Reagents, with H. C. Brown and K. Smith).
The impact of Andrew's work on synthetic organic chemistry was substantial. Also, by combining effective leadership qualities with the ability to make chemistry enjoyable to various audiences, he built up a high quality organic chemistry unit at Swansea. His reputation attracted many students from the UK and abroad, as well as postdoctoral workers from, for example, Europe, the USA, India, Japan and the Middle East. He always took a keen interest in his students' careers, and was delighted when they were successful in establishing their own research groups.
Andrew was a consummate professional scientist and joined his professional body, then known as the Royal Institute of Chemistry, in 1958, gaining the recognition of Fellowship (FRIC) in 1976. He was also elected to Fellowship of the Learned Society of Wales in 2012 for his scientific contributions. However, he was also a more widely cultured person, and in his retirement found time to write poetry and short stories, often related to World War 2. He was married three times, most recently to Susan Smith on 22 January 1994. He was able, with Susan, to celebrate his silver wedding anniversary this year. He has children from all three marriages and is survived by his four daughters and a son as well as by his wife.
Keith Smith and Bakthan Singaram