Obituary: Stephen Waley

Stephen Gerald Waley, chemist: born Kew, Surrey 1 June 1922; Senior Research Officer, Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology, Oxford 1954-70; Senior Research Fellow, Linacre College, Oxford 1964-89, Emeritus Fellow 1989-93; University Lecturer in Pathology, Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, Oxford 1970-89; married (one son, one daughter); died Oxford 5 December 1993.

A BIO-ORGANIC chemist of distinction, Stephen Waley was noted for his contributions to knowledge of the mechanism by which enzymes exert their activity by converting one chemical substance to another.

Waley was born in 1922, educated at St Paul's School, west London, and Balliol College, Oxford, and obtained a First Class degree in the Oxford School of Natural Sciences in 1943. His father, Sir David Waley, whom he resembled in appearance and manner, was a public servant in the Treasury.

Waley's introduction to research came in 1943, when he was a member of a group led by Professor Sir Robert Robinson in the Dyson Perrins Laboratory whose object was the synthesis of penicillin. After obtaining a DPhil in 1945 he joined Courtaulds Research Laboratory but found this to be not entirely congenial, although he was able to produce publications in some areas of interest to him. In 1953 he was able to return for a year to the Dyson Perrins as a postdoctoral research fellow. A year later he became more or less permanently established in the academic environment most suited to him, when he was appointed to the position of Senior Research Officer in the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology in Oxford.

Waley's book Mechanisms of Organic and Enzymic Reactions (1962) gives an excellent account of the linkage between the two fields at the time. During this period, he made an extensive study of proteins of the lens of the eye and discovered, inter alia, active ophthalmic acids in the lens that were analogous of glutathione. He also began an impressive study of the structure of the glycolytic enzyme triosephosphate isomerase.

In 1970 Waley moved to the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, also in Oxford, when he was invited to fill an unexpected vacancy. He was encouraged to make this move by the thought that ophthalmology might soon become almost entirely clinical and offer him less scope for his research interests.

In pathology he first continued his studies of triosephosphate isomerase. These facilitated the determination by Sir David Phillips and his colleagues in the Department of Molecular Biophysics of a three-dimensional structure of the enzyme by X-ray analysis at high resolution. He then turned his attention to the B-lactamase group of enzymes which had long been studied in his new laboratory and which had an important role in the resistance of some bacteria to penicillins and cephalosporins. He threw new light on the structure and mode of action of several different classes of these important enzymes and introduced a new procedure for their purification.

Waley retired in 1989 but he found a home in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and continued research until shortly before his death. Ample evidence of his abilities is to be found in his 147 publications and one feels that there might well have been some wider recognition of what he had accomplished. However, he received many invitations to lecture abroad. In 1964 he became, one of the first Fellows of Linacre College and his academic merit and his devotion to the college later led him to be elected to a unique stipendiary Senior Research Fellowship.

Waley's wide reading and personal contacts gave him an unusually extensive knowledge of research by others, not all related to his own, and he was a constant attender of evening meetings of an Oxford Enzyme Group.

He was a gentle, modest, and friendly man who had a contented domestic life.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'