Biochemical Society Transactions

Signalling the Future

Liverpool: the early years of biochemistry

G.A.J. Pitt

Abstract

The first Chair and department of biochemistry in the U.K. were founded at the University of Liverpool in 1902, thanks to a generous donation by William Johnston, a Liverpool shipowner. The first holder of the Johnston Chair, Benjamin Moore, was a dynamic man, who set up an active research centre. In 1906, he and Edward Whitley founded The Bio-Chemical Journal as a private venture, and in 1912, they sold it to the Biochemical Society. Moore also initiated the first Honours School of Biochemistry in the country before moving to London in 1914 and being succeeded by Walter Ramsden. The development of the department was stopped by World War I, and there was little expansion in the 1920s. After Ramsden's retirement in 1931, the third Johnston Professor, Harold Channon, increased staff numbers, ran a successful research school and re-established the Honours course. World War II brought that to an end, and Channon moved into industry. After the war, biochemistry expanded from a niche subject in a small number of British universities into one that was strongly represented in most universities, but the penetration of biochemistry into wide areas of functional biology has blurred conventional subject boundaries, so in many universities (including the University of Liverpool), departments of biochemistry have been incorporated into large more general schools.

  • University of Liverpool
  • Benjamin Moore
  • Walter Ramsden
  • Harold Channon

Footnotes

  • Signalling the Future, a Biochemical Society-sponsored meeting held at University of Liverpool, Liverpool, 4–6 September 2002