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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

Berlusconi's world of sleaze

The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

Could gaming arcades be revived?

The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

Heard the one about menstruation?

Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage