Maurice Stacey, 1907-1994 was educated at Adams Grammar School, Newport and the University of Birmingham where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in 1929 and was appointed to a University Demonstratorship. Stacey's earliest research related to the synthesis and structure of the higher structures. He obtained his Ph.D. in 1932, accepted Sir Noran Howarth's offer of a post-doctoral research scholarship and joined his research group working on Vitamin C. Stacey led a team working on its synthesis and within a short time had successfully crystallised the vitamin. This was the first ever synthetic vitamin to be obtained in crystalline form. The results were of great importance and helped to bring Haworth the Nobel Prize in 1937,while Stacey's contribution earned him the Meldola Medal of the Royal Institute of Chemistry in 1933.
From 1929-1933, Stacey had spent time preparing mould polysaccharides at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In 1933 he took up a Beit Fellowship for medical research there and carried out research into the complex carbohydrates of mould and bacteria and worked on the preparation of typhoid vaccines. In 1936 he was approached again by Sir Norman Howarth and accepted an appointment to a lectureship in Chemistry at the University of Birmingham, where he was to remain a member of staff for the rest of his career. Much of the following year was spent as a visiting professor in M. Heidelberger's laboratory at Columbia University, New York, United States of America, where he studied the immunopolysaccharides of the Pneumococcus and Streptococcus. On his return Stacey organised a team to research polysaccarides synthesised by micro-organisms. His most significant work at this time concerned the structure of the complex bacterial polysaccaride, dextran.
The outbreak of war in 1939 meant that the Chemistry Department at University of Birmingham had to redirect their work from carbohydrates to the study of uranium. Stacey was a member of the MAUD Chemistry Committee and worked on the production of uranium and its compounds, especially uranium hexafluoride as part of the Tube Alloys project. Stacey was still able to undertake a small amount of work on dextran and developed it as a blood plasma substitute. He also worked on the production of glucose direct from potatoes. In 1944 he was made a Reader of Chemistry in the Birmingham Department.
After the war Stacey's involvement in atomic energy research continued as a member of the panel which selected Harwell as the site for the first Atomic Energy Research Establishment and as a consultant on fluoro-carbon chemistry to the Atomic Energy Authority. In 1946 he was appointed Professor of Chemistry at University of Birmingham and undertook a number of separate projects. Research groups were established in organofluorine chemistry, nucleic acid chemistry and analytic chemistry. Stacey was appointed Mason Professor and Head of Department in 1956 and also served as Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering between 1963-1966. He retired in 1974 and was appointed Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Radiation Chemistry.
Stacey published over 400 scientific papers and more than 20 patents during his career. He wrote two books with S.R. Barker, Polysaccharides of Micro-organisms, 1961 and Carbohydrates of Living Tissues, 1962. He also encouraged links between universities and industry and acted as a consultant for a number of companies including Glaxo, ICI, Dunlop, Lucas Industries and Imperial Smelting Corporation.
Stacey was involved in a number of activities outside his university duties. Between 1940-1944 he served as a Commissioned Captain in the Home Guard (Warwickshire Regiment). He also founded a Chemical Defence School with J.A.N. Friend, which was responsible for training Home Guard Personnel in the Midland region in anti-gas and chemical warfare defence methods. Stacey was Chief Scientific Advisor for Civil Defence for the Midland region, 1950-1975. He was a member of the Home Office Science Advisory Council, 1967-1975 and served on the councils and committees of numerous other bodies, including five terms as Vice-President of the Chemical Society.
Stacey received the Meldola Medal of the Royal Institute of Chemistry in 1922 for his work on Vitamin C and was awarded the Tilden Medal and Lectureship by the Chemical Society in 1946 for his research on the chemistry of micro-organisms. In 1950 Stacey was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society and his work on sugar and dextran earned him the Grant Award of the United States National Academy of Sciences. He was awarded the CBE in 1966 for his Civil Defence work.
Reference: Alan Hayward and Peter Harper, Catalogue of the Papers and Correspondence of Maurice Stacey (National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists, University of Bath, 1997).
For further reading about the University of Birmingham see: Eric Ives, Diane Drummond, Leonard Schwarz The First Civic University: Birmingham 1880-1980 An Introductory History (The University of University of Birmingham Press. 2000).