Synge, Richard Laurence Millington (1914-1994), biochemist

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Synge, Richard Laurence Millington (1914-1994), biochemist

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  • Sing, Richard Laurence Millington (name from birth till 1920)

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1914-1994

History

Richard Laurence Millington Synge was born in Liverpool on 28 October 1914. He was educated at Old Hall Preparatory School, Wellington, Shropshire and Winchester College before being awarded an exhibition in classics to Trinity College Cambridge in 1931. However, Synge switched from classics to science prior to taking up his place at Trinity College in 1933, and he graduated with a Double First in the Natural Sciences Tripos in 1936. After graduation Synge remained in Cambridge, studying in the Department of Biochemistry under the supervision of N.W. Pirie. He researched on protein analysis, in particular the separation of acetyl-amino acids. Contemporary techniques for separating biological substances into its component chemicals were insufficient for Synge's needs and in 1938 he contacted A.J.P. Martin, also working in Cambridge, who had devised apparatus for the extraction of vitamin E. Synge, with the support of the Australian biochemist H.R. Marston, was given a studentship from the International Wool Secretariat for joint research with Martin and they collaborated to build more a sophisticated apparatus for separation of amino acids by extraction techniques.

In 1938 Martin moved to the Wool Industries Research Association Laboratories in Leeds. He was followed shortly thereafter by Synge whose studentship was transferred to Leeds. Following the award of his Ph.D. in 1940, Synge was appointed Biochemist to the Wool Industries Research Association. Synge and Martin continued their joint work developing their ideas for amino acid separation and in May 1941, using a silica gel column, they demonstrated that partition chromatography could work in practice. This allowed complex biochemical substances to be broken down and analysed with a facility impossible with previous chemical techniques. Over the next few years Synge and Martin worked to find a more versatile medium than silica gel and developed the filter paper chromatograph. For their invention of the technique of partition chromatography, an achievement that transformed the area of science that would come to be known as molecular biology, Synge and Martin were awarded the Nobel prize for Chemistry in 1952.

In 1943, in order to work in an area with more relevance to the war effort, Synge joined the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine in London. He researched on the chemistry of the antibiotic polypeptides of the gramicidin-tyrocidine group. During this period good relations with the USSR meant that samples of the antibiotic gramicidin S were made available. In 1945 using paper chromatography Synge established the sequence of the amino acids in gramicidin S. For the period August 1946 - May 1947 Synge worked at the laboratory of Arne Tiselius in the Fysikalisk-Kemiska Institution, Uppsala, Sweden.

Synge left the Lister Institute in 1948 so that he could work on more immediately practical aspects of biochemistry and was given a post at the Rowett Research Institute, based in Aberdeen. He headed the Department of Protein and Carbohydrate Chemistry (later the Department of Protein and Lipid Chemistry, then the Department of Protein Chemistry). In 1965 Synge was appointed Deputy Director of the Institute. His research concentrated on the digestion of proteins, chiefly though not exclusively leaf proteins.

During his time at the Rowett Research Institute Synge made a number of extended visits abroad. In 1958 he was invited to New Zealand by the New Zealand Department of Agriculture to help in investigating the cause and possible cure of facial eczema in sheep. He arrived in November 1958 and spent several months working with E.P. White on isolating and studying the poisonous fungus Sporidesmium bakeri. In 1965 and 1966 Synge visited India, on both occasions as a guest of the Indian Statistical Institute, studying problems of tropical agriculture. He returned for a shorter visit in 1970.

Synge worked at the Rowett Research Institute until 1967 when he joined the Agricultural Research Council's new Food Research Institute in Norwich. S.R. Elsden, his former colleague from the Cambridge Biochemistry Department, was Director of the Institute. Here Synge worked on the combination of phenolic compounds of plants with proteins and also, in a rather new area, problems relating to the electronic storage and retrieval of information on the structure of organic chemical compounds. In 1968 Synge was appointed Honorary Professor of Biology at the University of East Anglia, a post he held until 1984. Synge retired from the Institute in 1976 but continued to research until his death on 18 August 1994.

Synge was elected to the Fellowships of the Royal Society in 1950 and two years later he and Martin were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their invention of partition chromatography. Among other honours, he was made a Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge in 1972.

Synge was on the political Left and in the 1930s and 1940s was a member of the Communist Party. This led to him being refused entry to the United States in 1949. In his later life he was active in the peace movement, as a member of the organisation Scientists Against Nuclear Arms and

R.L.M. and Ann Synge had eight children: Jane (born 11 April 1943), Elizabeth (3 May 1944), Thomas Millington (6 September 1945, died in childhood), Matthew Millington (25 January 1948), Patrick Millington (7 January 1951), Alexander Millington (29 May 1953), Charlotte and Mary (18 June 1955).

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Synge, Jane (b 1943), sociologist (b c 1943)

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family

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Synge, Jane (b 1943), sociologist

is the child of

Synge, Richard Laurence Millington (1914-1994), biochemist

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Smith, Elizabeth (b 1944), biologist (b c 1944)

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family

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Smith, Elizabeth (b 1944), biologist

is the child of

Synge, Richard Laurence Millington (1914-1994), biochemist

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Synge, Patrick Millington (b 1951), boat-builder (b 1951)

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family

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Synge, Patrick Millington (b 1951), boat-builder

is the child of

Synge, Richard Laurence Millington (1914-1994), biochemist

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Synge, Alexander Millington (b 1953), son of Richard L. M. and Ann Davies Synge (b 1953)

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family

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Synge, Alexander Millington (b 1953), son of Richard L. M. and Ann Davies Synge

is the child of

Synge, Richard Laurence Millington (1914-1994), biochemist

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Synge, Matthew Millington (b 1948), son of Anne and Richard L M Synge (b 1948)

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family

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Synge, Matthew Millington (b 1948), son of Anne and Richard L M Synge

is the child of

Synge, Richard Laurence Millington (1914-1994), biochemist

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Synge, Charlotte (b 1955), microbiologist and garden designer (b 1955)

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family

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Synge, Charlotte (b 1955), microbiologist and garden designer

is the child of

Synge, Richard Laurence Millington (1914-1994), biochemist

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Synge, Laurence Millington (1887-1962) stockbroker (1887-1962)

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family

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Synge, Laurence Millington (1887-1962) stockbroker

is the parent of

Synge, Richard Laurence Millington (1914-1994), biochemist

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Synge, Katherine Charlotte (1885-1972), mother of Richard L. M. Synge

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family

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Synge, Katherine Charlotte (1885-1972), mother of Richard L. M. Synge

is the parent of

Synge, Richard Laurence Millington (1914-1994), biochemist

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Brian, Anne Dorothea (b 1919), entomologist (b 1919)

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family

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Brian, Anne Dorothea (b 1919), entomologist

is the sibling of

Synge, Richard Laurence Millington (1914-1994), biochemist

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Smith, Katharine Mary Glennie- (b 1916), sister of Richard L. M. Synge (b 1916)

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family

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Smith, Katharine Mary Glennie- (b 1916), sister of Richard L. M. Synge

is the sibling of

Synge, Richard Laurence Millington (1914-1994), biochemist

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Synge, Ann Davies (1916-1997), surgeon (1916-1997)

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family

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Synge, Ann Davies (1916-1997), surgeon

is the spouse of

Synge, Richard Laurence Millington (1914-1994), biochemist

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1943-1994

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Synge, Mary Jane (1856-1943), grandmother of Richard L. M. Synge (1856-1943)

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family

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Synge, Mary Jane (1856-1943), grandmother of Richard L. M. Synge

is the grandparent of

Synge, Richard Laurence Millington (1914-1994), biochemist

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Swan, Emma Henrietta (c. 1857-1943) (c. 1857-1943)

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family

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Swan, Emma Henrietta (c. 1857-1943)

is the grandparent of

Synge, Richard Laurence Millington (1914-1994), biochemist

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Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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