Sir Christopher Dobson†, FRS

It is with deep sadness that we report the death, on Sunday 8th September 2019, of Sir Christopher Dobson, FRS, a Trustee of the Wilkinson Charitable Foundation.

Chris Dobson was born in Germany in October 1949 to parents who were stationed there with the British Army. It was his father’s military career that led him to spend some of his youth abroad in countries including Nigeria. Chris was educated in the UK first at Hereford Cathedral Junior School then at Abington School.

BSc and PhD Degrees at Oxford were followed by Fellowships in Oxford and a short spell in Harvard before returning to a Lectureship in Chemistry at Oxford and Fellowship of Lady Margaret Hall. He quickly rose through the ranks being appointed Professor in 1996, the year he was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Chris Dobson built a strong and world leading group in Oxford before moving to Cambridge as John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Chemical and Structural Biology (2001), subsequently becoming Master of St John’s College in 2007. Chris Dobson founded the Cambridge Centre for Misfolding Diseases in 2012 and cofounded Wren Therapeutics, a spin-out company, in 2016. He was knighted in the Birthday Honours, 2018.

Most of Chris Dobson’s research concerned studies, mainly using NMR methods, of how proteins fold and misfold. He postulated that misfolding can lead to disease states and discovered that, under some circumstances, proteins can spontaneously degrade into amyloid plaques. Since amyloid plaques are found in brains of people who have died from Alzheimer’s disease, it appeared that there might be a clear connection between protein misfolding and Alzheimer’s disease.  Much of the recent work of Chris’s group has involved obtaining a detailed understanding of how proteins misfold and how that misfolding can be reversed or interrupted. The group has made remarkable progress and the possibility of a cure for Alzheimer’s and related diseases has become much closer as a result of their pioneering studies. Wren Pharmaceuticals has been set up to exploit these findings and to develop therapeutic agents arising from them. Chris Dobson authored around 900 publications with an h index of >130 and around 5000 citations per year. Aside for his Fellowship of the Royal Society and Knighthood, Chris Dobson has been awarded accolades from countries as diverse as India, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland, German and the United States. Amongst his many UK medals and prizes are both the Davy and Royal Medals of the Royal Society.

Sir Christopher Dobson supervised and mentored a very large number of postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows, showing that balance of total academic integrity and rigour with compassion and humanity that is the mark of an outstanding supervisor. He also employed these skills to be a much loved and highly successful Master of St. John’s College Cambridge.

Chris Dobson became a Trustee of the Wilkinson Charitable Foundation about 3 years ago bringing a deep knowledge of Chemistry and very significant financial experience. He has helped steer the Foundation towards the funding of many chemistry related projects always offering advice with great charm and tact.

Chris Dobson is survived by his wife Mary, formerly Director of the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine in Oxford and their two sons, Richard and William. He touched the lives of everyone he met and will be very sorely missed by so many.

David Cole-Hamilton
16th September, 2019


Photo: Jussi Puikkonen/KNAWKNAW Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Oldest printed periodic table finds a new home

Oldest printed Periodic Table Wallchart hanging in Burlington House.

The world’s oldest printed Periodic Table Walchart, printed in 1885, finds a new home on the wall at Burlington House. It is the first time it has been seen in public for over 100 years. The Foundation funded its transport to Burlington House from St Andrews. It is hanging alongside the EuChemS Periodic Table showing element scarcity. The picture was taken at the Royal Society of Chemistry Summer Party (2019).

Have you ever wondered about what the elements of the periodic table would be like if they were teenagers?

Daniel Estrada Ramírez, Petronela Oltita Ghitoaica, Emma Juanpere Colomina and Jhasmin Edith Suarez Santalla created this winning video by thinking exactly this, and placing the best known chemical elements into their High School environment! How does reactivity relate to the way a chemical element behaves at school? Watch the video to find out!

Background to the video competition: 2019 marks the 150th annniversary of Dimitri Mendeleev’s Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. The United Nations proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (IYPT 2019), and EuChemS came up with the idea to launch a video competition for younger scientists to engage with this international festival. The Wilkinson Charitable Foundation was proud sponsor of the under 18 category – whose winning video can be seen above.

Other winners of the EuChems Video competition can be found through the link below:

EuChemS – Chemistry Rediscovered (video competition prize winners)

Oldest printed Periodic Table Wallchart

Worlds oldest periodic table acter conservation.

The Geoffrey Wilkinson Foundation are to provide the bulk of the costs to transport this unique artefact from St Andrews where it has just been conserved to the Royal Society of Chemistry, Burlington House, Piccadilly where it will be on display throughout July, August and September, This artefact has not been seen in public for over 100 years.