Childhood & Early Life
Archer Martin was born in Upper Holloway in London on March 1, 1910.
His father, William Archer Porter Martin, was an Irish doctor and his mother, Lilian Kate Brown Ayling, was a nurse. He had an elder sister named Nora.
The family moved to Bedford in 1920 where Martin attended the Bedford School from 1921 to 1929.
He earned a scholarship to study chemical engineering at Peterhouse, Cambridge in 1929.
At the insistence of the famous biochemist John Burdon Sanderson Haldane at Cambridge, Marin switched over to biochemistry from chemical engineering.
After graduation in 1932, he worked at the physical chemistry laboratory before joining the university’s ‘Dunn Nutritional Laboratory’ in 1933.
He worked here till 1939 on the isolation of Vitamin E in collaboration with Tommy Moore and Leslie J. Harris and with Sir Charles Martin in isolating the anti-pellagra factor.
He received his PhD in 1936.
In 1938 Martin met fellow graduate student, Richard L. M. Synge and started working together in the development of a better concurrent extraction equipment.
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In 1938 Archer Martin took up a biochemist’s job at the ‘Wool Industries and Research Association’ or ‘WIRA’ at Leeds. He continued to build more elaborate concurrent apparatus until he was successful in building one that worked.
In 1939 Synge also joined him at the WIRA and they were able to develop a partition-chromatographic technique which could successfully separate acelytated amino acids.
On June 7, 1941, they demonstrated their partition chromatography to the ‘Biochemical Society’ at the ‘National Institute for Medical Research, Hampstead’.
Martin and Sygne suggested fine particles and high pressures for improving the separation which came to be used in the high-pressure liquid chromatography in the mid 1970s.
They helped the war effort during the Second World War by inventing a cloth to protect soldiers from mustard gas.
In 1943 Synge left WIRA. Martin carried on with his experiments on paper chromatography with Raphel Consden.
In 1944 Martin developed paper-chromatography using filter paper which was cheap, easily available and could absorb water and demonstrated his findings to the ‘Biochemical society’ at the ‘Middlesex Hospital, London’ on March 25, 1944.
Martin joined as the head of the ‘Biochemistry Division’ of the ‘Boots Pure Drug Company’ (BPDC) in Nottingham and worked there from 1946 to 1948.
In 1948 he left the BPDC and joined ‘Medical Research Council’ (MRC) in London which was earlier known as the ‘Lister Institute’.
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In 1950 he joined the flagship company of MRC the ‘National Institute for Medical Research’ (NIMR) at Mill Hill near London and started working there with Tony James under director Sir Charles Harington.
In 1952 he became the head of ‘Division of Physical Chemistry’ of this Institute
While at NIMR, Martin used gas-liquid chromatography which he had explored with Synge years earlier to help a colleague, Geroge Popjak separate a mixture of fatty acids from goat’s milk.
Martin demonstrated his new technique to the ‘Biochemical Society’ at NIMR on October 20, 1950 and to the ‘International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry’ at the ‘Dyson Perrins Laboratory’ in Oxford in September 1952.
He left NIMR in 1956 and concentrated more on machinery than scientific research. He could not keep up with the changes occurring in the field of biochemistry and was left out while other moved ahead.
He bought Abbotsbury in 1957 with the Nobel Award prize money and set up ‘Abbotsbury Laboratories Ltd.’ where he concentrated on the isolation of compounds in eggs, milk and liver that can cause inflammation.
He held a visiting professorship at the ‘Technical University of Eindhoven’ from 1969 to 1974 and acted as a consultant to ‘Philips Electronics, Netherlands’.
He was made a consultant for the research laboratories of ‘Wellcome Foundation’ in Beckenham, Kent in 1970, but left it in 1973.
He joined the ‘University of Sussex’ in 1973 where he set up a research team with funding from the ‘Medical Research Council’. He tried to isolate insulin from pig gut and at developing a vacuum pump for freeze-drying and a hand-held pump for needle-free vaccine administration.
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In 1974 he took up ‘Robert A. Welch Professorship’ at the ‘University of Houston’ in Texas, US but his professorship was terminated in 1979 due to some disagreements with the authorities.
He retired in 1984 and returned to Cambridge with his family.
Archer Martin’s book ‘Separation of Higher Monoamino-Acids by Counter-Current Liquid-liquid Extraction : The Amino-Acid Composition of Wool’ written with Richard L. M. Synge was published in 1941.
The book ‘Qualitative Analysis of Proteins: A Partition Chromatographic Method Using Paper’ written with Raphel Consden and A. Hugh Gordon was published in 1944.
‘Gas-Liquid Partition Chromatography: The Separation and Micro-Estimation of Volatile Fatty Acids from Formic Acid to Dodecanoic Acid’ written in collaboration with Anthony T. James was published in 1952.
Awards & Achievements
Archer Martin was made a ‘Fellow of the Royal Society’ in 1950.
He received the ‘Berzelius Medal’ from the ‘Swedish Medical Society’ in 1951.
He won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1952.
He received the ‘John Scott Award’ in 1958, the ‘John Price Wetherill Medal’ in 1959, the ‘Franklin Institute Medal’ in 1959 and the ‘Leverhulme Medal’ in 1963.
He was honored with CBE in 1960.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Judith Bagenal in 1943 and had three daughters and two sons from the marriage.
He had dyslexia till the age of eight and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1985. He was moved to a nursing home in Llangarron in 1996.
Archer Martin died on July 28, 2002 at a nursing home in Llangarron in Herefordshire in England.