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Jake MacMillan - Publications 1948-2004 from JOHN (JAKE) MACMILLAN. 13 September 1924 — 12 May 2014

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posted on 17.11.2020, 09:21 by Thomas J. Simpson, Christine L. Willis
Jake MacMillan, although by training and personal acclamation ‘first and foremost an organic chemist’, was one of the UK's most brilliant interdisciplinary scientists. A pioneer in the field of bioorganic chemistry, he was practising what we would now call synthetic biology 40 years before the term was coined. A young PhD student or post-doctoral research associate joining his group would mix with chemists, plant physiologists, fungal geneticists and enzymologists as well as being exposed to internationally leading natural product chemistry, advanced organic synthesis, mechanistic studies and state-of-the-art analytical methods, including emerging techniques such as gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. His multidisciplinary approach to tackling major problems at the chemistry–biology interface was undoubtedly influenced by his early research career working in the famed Butterfield (later Akers) Laboratory set up by ICI as a basic research establishment in the grounds of a Victorian house, The Frythe. There, he isolated and elucidated the structure of the important antifungal agent griseofulvin, before initiating his life-long interest in the gibberellins. These diterpenoid natural products were originally isolated as phytotoxic fungal metabolites, before their role as essential plant-growth regulators present in all higher plants was established. He moved to Bristol in 1963 to commence an academic career as a lecturer at the relatively advanced age of 39. He became the world authority on the chemistry, biosynthesis and biology of the gibberellins, rising through the academic ranks to be awarded a personal chair in 1978.

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