Obituary: Richard Ambler (1933-2014)

Professor Mary Bownes remembers Professor Richard Penry Ambler, Personal Chair of Protein Chemistry.

Richard Ambler was born in Bexley Heath on 26 May 1933. He spent his childhood in India before returning to England to boarding school.

In 1954 he entered the University of Cambridge (Pembroke College) to study Natural Sciences and remained in Cambridge to undertake a PhD in the Department of Biochemistry.

Three years of postdoctoral research in Cambridge’s MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology followed.

In 1965 he joined Edinburgh’s newly established Department of Molecular Biology.

He was elected a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation in 1985 and was given a Personal Chair in Protein Chemistry in 1987.

He headed the Department of Molecular Biology from 1984 to 1990, and the Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology from 1990 to 1993.

Richard's research career was devoted to answering questions concerning the evolution of bacteria with the aid of amino acid sequence information.

This led him to perfect protein sequencing techniques, and in 1963 he published the first amino acid sequence of a bacterial protein, that of Pseudomonas cytochrome c551.

Richard was an invaluable colleague, providing a reliable and helpful source of information on all aspects of protein chemistry.

He had a wide range of non-scientific interests, particularly archaeology, and was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Richard is survived by two daughters, four stepdaughters, seven grandchildren and his first wife, Pat. Sue, his second wife, passed away in 2003.

His house was often frequented by visitors from around the world, and his companionship, common sense and mischievous wit will be missed by his colleagues and family alike.


Professor Mary Bownes is Senior Vice-Principal External Engagement.

An extended version of this obituary will be published in the next edition of 'Bulletin'.

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