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Professor Sir Ken Murray (1930–2013)

Professor Mary Bownes pays tribute to Professor Sir Kenneth Murray, one of the UK’s most eminent scientists.

Ken and Noreen Murray

Sir Kenneth was an international leader of scientific innovation who saved countless lives worldwide by developing the first vaccine against viral hepatitis B.

One of the earliest workers in genetic engineering, he was co-founder of the first European-based Biotechnology company, Biogen.

Most of his commercial income was used to found the Darwin Trust in 1983. The trust has supported the education of many young scientists, and helped to found cutting-edge research and improved facilities at the University of Edinburgh.

Sir Kenneth obtained a first-class honours degree in chemistry and a PhD in microbiology from the University of Birmingham, where he met his wife, Noreen, who became a close scientific collaborator. Noreen died in 2011.

He joined the University of Edinburgh in 1967 at what was then the only department of molecular biology in the country.

He and his colleagues made the University a leader in the molecular biology revolution. Sir Kenneth was Head of Molecular Biology from 1976 to 1984, and Biogen Professor of Molecular Biology in 1984.

Following his retirement in 1998, he continued to come to the laboratory every day, leading further scientific endeavours. Increasingly, he spent more time on his philanthropic support of others.

Recently the Noreen and Kenneth Murray Library was built at King’s Buildings, recognising the couple’s distinguished careers and their commitment to the advancement of science and engineering.


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