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Dr Alexander John (Sandy) Geddes

Colleagues will be sorry to learn of the death of Dr Alexander John (Sandy) Geddes, formerly of the School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (and the former Department of Biophysics).

Sandy Geddes obtained a BSc from Kings College, London before moving to Leeds in 1962 in order to pursue his PhD studies on fibrous proteins, during the course of which he distinguished himself by elucidating a hitherto unknown structural type. On completion of his doctoral studies, he accepted a role as a Research Assistant at Leeds in the former Department of Biophysics. In 1968 he took up a prestigious European Molecular Biology Organisation Fellowship in Paris, returning to Leeds in 1969 to a promotion to Lecturer. In 1970 he travelled overseas again, as a Visiting Professor at Indiana University, to work upon peptide antibiotics; and it was in the US that he observed the new diffraction methods for studying crystals that he was able to bring back to Leeds on his return in 1971.

During his research career, Sandy worked collaboratively with numerous fellow academics and with industry. His work included investigation of the structure-function relationships of biological macromolecules; receptor based drug design; protein engineering; the structural study of enzymes; and the use of x-ray crystallography. This last strand of his research, including determination of the three-dimensional structures of protein molecules by x-ray crystallography, was to have particularly important applications in the design of drugs which act by interfering with the function of proteins. He quickly built an international reputation for the quality and thoroughness of his work, despite the constraints upon publication that were often imposed by his work upon sensitive commercial projects or with pharmaceutical conglomerates. He was greatly in demand as a research supervisor and a grant referee for the MRC and BBSRC, and served as an external examiner for the University of London. He was also an active member of a range of professional bodies, including the British Biophysics Society, the British Crystallographers Association, the British Pharmacological Society, the Molecular Graphics and Modelling Society and the Royal Society of Chemists, for whom he organised a number of successful conferences.

In addition, Sandy had a keen interest in information technology. He took a major role in introducing innovative uses for IT in University teaching; software design; and in the development of a stereoscopic 3-D viewing device at Leeds. For many years a representative of the University upon the Board of Governors at Ermysteds Grammar School, Skipton, he also assisted the staff and governors of the school with detailed advice upon setting up their first IT unit. Within the University, his expertise was to prove invaluable in the later reorganisation of the departments accommodation - particularly when the plant centre was moved to the Astbury Building as he was able to plan and oversee all aspects of the move, including the considerable difficulties inherent in designing and installing new IT provision.

During the latter half of his career, Sandys involvement in teaching grew, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. He was an outstandingly thoughtful and conscientious teacher, and the clarity of his explanations and his exemplary preparation for each module and lecture made him extremely popular with the students. He had the unusual gift of being able to combine a broad perspective upon his field with the single-mindedness required to pursue each minute detail of a problem; a combination which made him an inspiring and exacting tutor. He also conveyed a very genuine warmth and personal concern for his students; his quiet, unassuming manner made him very approachable and he was able to offer sound guidance and support to those with difficulties in their studies and their personal lives.

Sandy Geddes was a rigorous analytical scientist, highly respected within the University and internationally for his thorough and insightful research. He was also held in equally high personal regard by those who worked alongside him for his integrity, generosity and modesty, and for his exemplary commitment to his students progress and wellbeing. He will be greatly missed by his former colleagues and students alike.

Dr Geddes, is survived by his wife Joanna and sons Michael, James and Joel.

Published: 12 April 2010