Lord Todd (1907-1997)


Lord Alexander Robertus Todd, Baron Todd OM PRS FRSE, was a British biochemist whose research on the structure and synthesis of nucleotides, nucleosides, and nucleotide coenzymes gained him the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Todd was born near Glasgow on 2 October 1907. He was educated at Allan Glen's School and graduated from the University of Glasgow with a BSc in 1928. He received a PhD from Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt am Main in 1931 for his thesis on the chemistry of the bile acids. Todd was awarded an 1851 Research Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 and, after studying at Oriel College, Oxford, he gained another doctorate in 1933.

After graduating from the University of Oxford, Todd held posts with the Lister Institute, the University of Edinburgh and the University of London, where he was appointed Reader in Biochemistry.

Todd became the Sir Samuel Hall Chair of Chemistry and Director of the Chemical Laboratories of the University of Manchester in 1938, where he began working on nucleosides, compounds that form the structural units of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA).

In 1944, he was appointed to the 1702 Chair of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, which he held until his retirement in 1971.He also served as chairman of the Government of the United Kingdom's advisory committee on scientific policy from 1952 to 1964.

Todd was elected a Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge in 1944 and was Master from 1963 to 1978. He became Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde in 1975, and a visiting professor at Hatfield Polytechnic (1978–1986). Among his many honours, including over 40 honorary degrees, he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1942, was President of the Royal Society from 1975 to 1980 and became a member of the Order of Merit in 1977.

He was knighted as Sir Alexander Todd in 1954 and was created a Life Peer as Baron Todd of Trumpington on 16 April 1962.

Todd died in 1997 after a heart attack and he is commemorated by a blue plaque erected by the Royal Society of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge's Department of Chemistry.