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Obituary: Bernard Kilby

Colleagues will be very sorry to learn of the death, on 6 May 2004, of Dr Bernard Kilby, former Reader in the Department of Biochemistry.

Dr Kilby went up to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, in 1934, where he took a First in Parts I and II of the Natural Sciences (Chemistry) Tripos. Awarded a Senior Scholarship by his College, he remained at Cambridge to complete a PhD in terpene Chemistry. During the War he was involved in research on the synthesis and toxicology of organophosphorus compounds and also worked for a period with a group investigating the biosynthesis of penicillin.

Appointed as a Lecturer to the fledgling Department of Biochemistry at Leeds in 1946, Dr Kilby extended his earlier research on organic phosphorus compounds to the study of their use as insecticides. This, in turn, prompted his wider interest in insect biochemistry and he went on to establish a reputation as one of the countrys leading experts in this field.

Together with other members of his team, he published a series of highly regarded and frequently cited papers, many of them concerned with carbohydrate metabolism in insects, in journals including Nature, the Biochemical Journal and the Journal of Experimental Biology. Dr Kilbys work received substantial support from the Agricultural Research Council and the Anti-Locust Research Centre; his locust colony became one of the showpieces of the Department.

Early in his career at Leeds, Dr Kilby also made a significant contribution to the Departments interest in bacterial metabolism, when his isolation and identification of a particular acid as a key aliphatic product in the bacterial degradation of aromatic compounds proved the starting point for major developments by research groups in the UK, Japan and the USA. In recognition of his outstanding research contributions, Dr Kilby was made a Reader in 1968, having earlier (1954) been promoted to Senior Lecturer.

As a teacher, Dr Kilby was very popular with his students, having the happy gift of explaining complex chemical processes in a way that combined clarity with entertainment. Reflecting his interest in teaching, he became the first editor of Biochemical Education. His part in the successful development of biochemistry at Leeds in the post-war period was a significant one; he was extensively engaged in departmental planning matters and the development of the library, and served for many years as admissions tutor.

As Acting Head of Department in 1966-67, he steered through a number of important long-term decisions. These activities went hand-in-hand with a long-standing interest in University and student affairs. At various times, he served on the Court, the Senate and a spread of committees, including those responsible for the Library, Academic Planning, Student Accommodation and Scholarships.

Dr Kilby had a particular interest in the welfare and well-being of students and his home was noted for the warmth and generosity of the hospitality extended by the family to students at all levels - and to colleagues. Fittingly, he was appointed as the first Warden of Mortain House, Bodington Hall in 1961 and, together with colleagues including Bob Mackey and George Rainnie, did an enormous amount over the next decade to establish Bodington as a vibrant community. In the words of the appreciation written by a colleague at the time of Dr Kilbys retirement his wide scientific interests, his natural bonhomie and deep interest in student life enriched the experience of many students.

Dr Kilby retired from his post in September 1980, having served the University in a rich variety of capacities for thirty-four years.

The funeral has taken place.

Published: 3 June 2004