Howard Redfern Morris

Presentation address by Professor Alison Ashcroft


Most high-flying academics would describe their profession as challenging and demanding; most CEOs would describe their jobs similarly. Howard Morris falls into a select group of people who have carried out both roles - at the very highest international level - simultaneously. 

Howard has over 45 years of research experience in the field of biomolecular mass spectrometry. His pioneering research has vastly improved our understanding of the structure and function of proteins and glycoproteins and forms the basis of current proteomics: the science dedicated to characterising the entire set of proteins produced by an organism.

Howard studied for both his BSc in Chemistry and his PhD at the University of Leeds, before moving on to postdoctoral positions at the University of Cambridge followed by the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.  In 1975, he went to Imperial College London, where he founded the Biomolecular Mass Spectrometry Group.  There, he became Professor of Biological Chemistry in 1980 and has been both Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Joint Head of the Life Sciences Division; he is now Professor Emeritus.

Howard’s long list of innovative and novel approaches to the characterisation of biomolecules started in Leeds where he carried out the very first protein sequencing experiments and includes the conception of a novel Q-TOF geometry mass spectrometer for de novo protein sequencing.  His colleagues have spoken of him as the “founding father of modern Biomolecular Mass Spectrometry”, and he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1988.

Concurrent to his academic career, Howard founded two companies to translate his analytical strategies to the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.  In 1980 he founded the analysis and consultancy company, M-SCAN, which grew to employ 65 staff in laboratories in the UK, USA, Switzerland and Germany before merging with SGS in 2010.  Howard’s second company, BioPharmaSpec, was founded in 2014 to work on new pre-clinical projects, such as antibody drug conjugates. 

Howard has over 430 publications and is the recipient of a many prestigious awards including, most recently, the 2010 Blaise Pascale Medal from the European Academy of Sciences, the 2012 Institute of Physics Franklin Medal, and the 2014 Royal Society Royal Medal for Interdisciplinary Sciences.  He is a shining example of what can be achieved through the powerful combination of intellect, imagination and tenacity.

Chancellor, I am delighted and honoured to present to you for the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, Howard Redfern Morris.