Obituary: Professor Sir Ken Murray

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AN Edinburgh University scientist who developed the first vaccine against viral hepatitis B has died.

Professor Sir Ken Murray’s cure would go on to save countless lives worldwide, preventing deaths that had previously occurred among the 300 million people infected with the virus.

Born in Yorkshire, Sir Ken left school at the age of 16 to become a laboratory technician at Boots in Nottingham.

He would continue his education with part-time study, obtaining a first class honours degree in chemistry and a PhD in microbiology from the University of Birmingham.

While there, he met his wife, Noreen, who was to become a close scientific collaborator. The couple married in 1958 and shared many interests, including hillwalking and camping as well as their collective work.

Sir Ken joined Edinburgh University in 1967 and became a key figure at the only department of molecular biology in the country at the time. He later became professor of molecular biology in 1984.

Scientific research led to new treatments for diseases and genetic disorders, with Sir Ken co-founding the first European-based biotechnology company, Biogen.

Most of the scientist’s commercial income was used to set up the Darwin Trust in 1983. The trust promoted research and education in natural science, supporting young scientists and helping fund cutting-edge research and improved facilities at the university.

Sir Ken’s generosity also supported activities that would inspire the next generation of potential scientists.

His retirement in 1998 did not stop him from coming to the laboratory every day, contributing to the development of DNA gene cloning.

A knighthood came in 1993, seven years before Sir Ken was presented with a Royal Medal by the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Such was the couple’s contribution to Edinburgh University that a Noreen and Kenneth Murray Library has been built at the King’s Buildings.

Noreen died in 2011, while Sir Ken suffered from ill health in recent years. He died on April 7 in Edinburgh at the age of 82.

The couple had no children, but left behind a large community of admiring colleagues and friends whose lives they touched.