Charles Si­mons

BORN LON­DON, MARCH 28, 1916. DIED LON­DON, MARCH 26, 2008, AGED 91.

The Jewish Chronicle - - OBIT­U­AR­IES -

ABRIL­LIANT aca­demic chemist, Dr Charles Si­mons helped the war ef­fort and Bri­tain’s pro­duc­tion of in­sulin and peni­cillin.

The youngest of four chil­dren of a poor, non-aca­demic fam­ily in Beth­nal Green, in the East End, he was ed­u­cated on a se­ries of schol­ar­ships.

He went from Tot­ten­ham County School to Im­pe­rial Col­lege Lon­don, Leeds Univer­sity and Cam­bridge Univer­sity, gain­ing his PhD at 21.

Since Ger­many was pre-em­i­nent in science in the in­ter­war years, he taught him­self tech­ni­cal Ger­man in order to read the sci­en­tific text­books as a stu­dent, in­clud­ing the pi­o­neer­ing work of Paul Ehrlich, who used peni­cillin to cure syphilis, and Pro­fes­sor Kohn, who worked on in­sulin.

Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War he ran a peni­cillin fac­tory and, after the war, an in­sulin fac­tory, where of­fal from a large meat com­pany was fed into the pro­duc­tion line and ended up as in­sulin.

When war ended he was sent on a mission to Ger­many to find out about its chem­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties. With Ger­many di­vided into four mil­i­tary zones, the War Of­fice gave him mil­i­tary sta­tus with the rank of lt-colonel.

He signed the Of­fi­cial Se­crets Act and flew with five other sci­en­tists. He in­spected some 20 ma­jor chem­i­cal fac­to­ries pro­duc­ing, among other things, cyanide and opium. The Nazi man­ager of one fac­tory re­fused to speak to him.

Back home six weeks later, he was stripped of his rank and re­turned all the uni­form ex­cept the socks. His re­port for BIOS, the Bri­tish In­tel­li­gence Ob­jec­tive Sub­com­mit­tee, was pub­lished as a gov­ern­ment white pa­per in 1946.

Look­ing for a ca­reer change, hav­ing gained ev­ery chem­istry qual­i­fi­ca­tion, he took up the sug­ges­tion of a cousin who was a coroner, and stud­ied law. He was ad­mit­ted to the bar at In­ner Temple in 1950 but could not af­ford the en­su­ing non-earn­ing pe­riod of pupil­lage, so went into in­dus­try.

He was deputy chief chemist at the Bri­tish Drug Houses and Euro­pean com­pany sec­re­tary of Turtle­wax, hav­ing su­per­vised the build­ing of its fac­tory in Skelmers­dale.

He sat on the coun­cil of Liver­pool Univer­sity and In­sti­tute of Chem­istry. He was an ex­am­iner for the In­sti­tute of Chem­istry and taught chem­istry in two lo­cal schools for a short while after re­tire­ment. Qui­etly con­sci­en­tious, he was unas­sum­ing but highly ef­fec­tive.

Con­fined to a wheelchair in a res­i­den­tial home be­cause of a de­bil­i­tat­ing con­di­tion for the last five years of his life, he took an abridged Fri­day night ser­vice at the home and was loved and re­spected by staff and res­i­dents alike.

He is sur­vived by his wife, Edna, whom he mar­ried at Hen­don Syn­a­gogue in 1942; son, Ger­ald; and two grand­chil­dren.

Dr Charles Si­mons: top chemist

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