Papers and correspondence of Malcolm Douglas Lilly

Scope and Content

The archive is dominated by extensive documentation of the development of biochemical engineering at University College London and covers the period 1957-2003.

Biographical material is not extensive but includes a copy of the obituary that appeared in the Guardian newspaper, curriculum vitae, list of theses supervised and an interesting record of his lengthy efforts to secure membership of the Institution of Chemical Engineers.

There is an interesting group of notebooks and research notes including a sequence of notebooks covering an extended period, 1962-1998, in a variety of formats and used for a variety of purposes, including address book, lists of things to do, notes of meetings with UCL colleagues, European Federation of Biotechnology meetings, bibliographical references, etc. A notebook used from '11/10/1997' is identified as 'MDL's last notebook'. The research notes cover the period, 1965-1997. Some identifiable groups of notes have titles such as 'Control Systems', 'Fermentation' and 'Progesterone Conversion' but many notes were found loose and in no order and are undated.

University College London papers form by far the largest component of the archive. They document key aspects of the development of biochemical engineering there and cover the period 1957-2002. They are subdivided as follows: 'History', Advanced Centre for Biochemical Engineering (ACBE), Interdisciplinary Research Centre (IRC), Research grants, Teaching and training, Personnel and Miscellaneous. The 'History' papers comprise the contents of folders and box folders labelled 'history' or 'historical' and include strategic papers and records of developments in teaching, research and the provision of facilities. The ACBE papers include correspondence and papers, relating to the creation of purpose-designed facilities for training and research activities in biochemical engineering at UCL in an 'Advanced Centre', 1986-1995. The IRC papers document developments associated with UCL becoming in 1991 the research council funded IRC for Biochemical Engineering with a ten year remit to develop an interdisciplinary programme of research and teaching. There is some overlap with material in 'ACBE' files. The Research grants papers document the funding of research and related matters in biochemical engineering at UCL by Lilly and colleagues. The material is further organised by funding body or programme, by research contract client and by research topic and under the heading 'Patents'. The Teaching and training papers comprise Lilly's 'teaching notes' covering a variety of courses for UCL students and others and substantial documentation for biochemical engineering summer courses given at UCL for participants from industry and academe, many from overseas. The dating of the 'teaching notes' is often problematic. The summer courses, however, are fully documented from no.3 to no.15, 1979-1991. The Personnel papers relate principally to research students and visitors to the Department and document arrangements to visit, research, publications and later contacts with the Department. The Miscellaneous papers are very diverse including records of equipment and facilities, research programmes, a joint project with Biotechnology Computer Systems Ltd, collaboration with Tel Aviv University and correspondence with UCL Provost, Sir James Lighthill.

The archive presents a near comprehensive record of Lilly's own scientific papers, 1962-2003, including a number of posthumous publications. The documentation may include manuscript and typescript drafts, correspondence and offprints. Also included here are the contents of a folder of 'unpublished' drafts. Publications correspondence is not extensive but there is some material relating to the journals with which Lilly was associated as author, reviewer and editor. There is significant though more patchy coverage of Lilly's public and invitation lectures, 1966-1996. Topics include 'Immobilised Enzyme Reactors', 'Developments in Biocatalysis', 'Two-liquid phase biocatalytic reactors', 'Industrial Use of Biocatalysts for Asymmetric Synthesis' and 'Biochemical Engineering - Its Contribution to Society', Lilly's 1988 Sir Harold Hartley Memorial Lecture. There are also many untitled lecture notes and drafts and some illustrative material for lectures and papers.

There is documentation of Lilly's association with twenty-four British and international societies and organisations, 1968-1998. Amongst the best documented are the European Commission, whose programmes supported biochemical engineering developments at the European level, and the European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB) and the International Organisation for Biotechnology and Bioengineering (IOBB), both of which Lilly served in a number of capacities including for the IOBB a period as chairman. Lilly's papers include a 'Formation of the EFB' file. The most comprehensively documented body is the Institute for Biotechnology Studies / International Institute of Biotechnology, including correspondence and papers relating to the formation of the Institute, trustees and management committee meetings, research programme, policy review, etc. There is documentation of consultancy relationships with twenty-one commercial organisations, 1968-1997, including Beckman Instruments Inc, Beecham Group Ltd / Smith Kline Beecham and Merck Sharp & Dohme Research Laboratories. On occasions Lilly consulted in partnership with his UCL colleague Peter Dunnill as Biotech Consultants. Also documented are visits and conferences, covering the period 1964-1998. At the end of the chronological sequence are papers relating to a number of meetings that Lilly was unable to attend because of ill health. The documentation may include programmes, lists of participants, abstracts and Lilly's notes on proceedings.

Although there is much correspondence throughout the archive there were no files of correspondence with individual scientific and engineering colleagues apart from the 'Personnel' files with the UCL papers. There is, however, a sequence of correspondence presented chronologically, 1966-1998, made up of letters found loose and without context.

Administrative / Biographical History

Malcolm Douglas Lilly was born on 9 August 1936. He grew up in Eltham in South London and was educated at St Olave's and St Saviour's Grammar School and, after a period of national service in the Royal Navy, University College London where he read biochemistry and went on to research on microbial enzymes (PhD 1962). He then transferred to the Department of Chemical Engineering to work on immobilised enzymes with Eric Crook (NCUACS catalogue 147/4/06). In 1963 he was appointed Lecturer in Biochemical Engineering, joined a few years later by Peter Dunnill who became his closest collaborator. One of the key areas of their research 'was the development of methods of using the high specificity of enzymes for complex reactions that were difficult to carry out by standard chemical methods. Because biological molecules, such as enzymes, are not as stable as industrial chemicals, basic research was needed to find out the best methods for maintaining their structure, and catalytic properties during purification and large-scale properties. It was also essential to develop appropriate equipment. … They investigated equipment already used in industry. For example, they found milk homogenisers used by the dairy industry could be used for disrupting micro-organisms. Later they improved the design of the fermenters in which the micro-organisms were grown. Malcolm's early work on the properties of enzymes immobilised by attachment to resin beads had particular importance. Immobilised enzymes have increased stability and can be used in commercial bioreactors for longer periods. One of the early successes at UCL was using an immobilised bacterial enzyme for the production of semi-synthetic penicillins. He researched biotransformation throughout his career, but also worked on other topics including mammalian cell culture, nucleotide isolation and biological fuel cells'. Obituary by Patricia H. Clarke, Guardian, 18 June 1998.

Lilly's career was closely connected to the development of biochemical engineering at UCL. In 1964 a Biochemical Engineering Section was established within the Department of Chemical Engineering and in 1966 the University of London approved the establishment of an MSc, with an undergraduate degree following in 1973. In 1979 Lilly was appointed the first Professor of Biochemical Engineering in the country. Further recognition for biochemical engineering at UCL came with its recognition as a national centre by the Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC) in 1987, the start of the construction of an Advanced Centre for Biochemical Engineering in 1990 and in 1991 the establishment there of the UK Interdisciplinary Research Centre (IRC) in Biochemical Engineering supported by the SERC. Peter Dunnill was Director and Lilly Chairman. The final step in a long struggle for the academic recognition was achieved in 1998 with the establishment of a separate Department of Biochemical Engineering as part of the School of Process Engineering.

Outside UCL Lilly was active in supporting biochemical engineering nationally and internationally. In 1981 when the SERC set up a Biotechnology Directorate under Dr Geoffrey Potter to encourage research in the field, Lilly (and others from UCL) served on the Biotechnology Management Committee. He was involved in several new international organisations including the International Organisation for Biotechnology and Bioengineering (Chairman 1972-1980) and the European Federation of Biotechnology. With colleagues from the Polytechnic of Central London (now University of Westminster) and the University of Kent he set up the Institute for Biotechnology Studies (later International Institute of Biotechnology), to promote multidisciplinary developments in biotechnology research and teaching. He was a member of the Board of Management and Executive Committee, 1983-1989. Other public responsibilities that he undertook included membership of the Research Board of British Gas, 1982-1994 and membership of the Board of the Public Health Laboratory Service, 1988-1994.

His outstanding achievement in biochemical engineering was widely recognised. In 1976 he was awarded the Food, Pharmaceutical and Bioengineering Award of the American Institute of Chemical Engineering, the first non-American to receive the award. He was elected to the Fellowship of Engineering (now Royal Academy of Engineering) in 1982 and of the Royal Society in 1991, the first biochemical engineer to receive both awards. He was a visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in 1969 and a Visiting Research Fellow at Merck, USA in 1987. In 1959 he married Sheila Stuart with whom he had two sons. At the height of his powers he was struck by cancer, which he fought courageously for more than ten years. With the support of his wife he was able to continue research until the last days of his life. He died on 18 May 1998.


By section as follows: Biographical, Notebooks and research notes, University College London, Publications, Lectures, Societies and organisations, Consultancies, Visits and conferences, Correspondence. Index of correspondents.

Access Information

Accessible to all registered researchers.

Acquisition Information

The papers were received from Mrs Sheila Lilly, widow, in June 2004 and September 2005.

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the archive of Malcolm Douglas Lilly: NCUACS no. 150/7/06, 201pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Dr Tim Powell, NCUACS, 3 September 2007

Related Material

Correspondence and papers relating to the preparation of the Royal Society biographical memoir of Lilly form part of the archive of Professor Patricia Clarke catalogued for University College London Library Special Collections (NCUACS catalogue no. 120/6/03).