Papers and correspondence of Eric Mitchell Crook

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This small archive documents Crook's interest in the development of biochemical engineering while a member of the University College London Department of Biochemistry and for a period after his departure for St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College.

Papers relating to biochemical engineering at University College London form the largest component in the collection. They include Crook's historical account of the development of biotechnology at UCL, documentation of research at UCL in collaboration with the Department of Chemical Engineering and documentation of the establishment in 1959 of the postgraduate diploma in biochemical engineering. The research projects documented are the production of coenzyme A and enzymes on solid supports. An individual item of great interest is the draft of a letter from Crook to the Provost UCL on his being informed of the decision not to establish a chair in biochemical engineering.

Lectures material is slight but includes drafts for Crook's Procter Memorial Lecture 'in honour of the father of British leather chemistry'. Publications material comprises material relating to Crook's own publications, especially a bound volume of his offprints, 1934-1964, and correspondence and papers relating to the founding of the Journal of Biochemical and Microbiological Technology and Engineering (later Biotechnology and Biochemical Engineering), 1957-1962. There is brief documentation relating to three organisations, Medical Research Council, Science Research Council and University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, 1971-1978. There is likewise brief documentation of seven meetings or visits, 1967-1982, relating to Crook's biochemical engineering and biotechnology interests. Included is a 'Biochemistry and Biochemical Engineering Report' by A.R. Thomson of AERE Harwell of his visit to the USA in March 1971.

Non textual material consists of just two photographs, a photograph of Crook taken ca 1952-1953 and an unidentified group photograph. Biographical notes were prepared by the family specially for the collection.

Administrative / Biographical History

Eric Mitchell Crook was born on 3 November 1914 in Sydney, Australia, the family moving to Melbourne when Crook was three. Here he received his education, graduating from the University of Melbourne with first class honours in Physics and Chemistry in 1937. After graduation he won a Commonwealth of Australia Travelling Scholarship to come to England to study at Cambridge for his Ph.D. under F.G. Hopkins. He was Hopkins's last Ph.D student and worked on the isolation and characterisation of redox enzymes and coenzymes. When he had obtained his Ph.D., he was awarded an MRC Postdoctoral Fellowship at Cambridge, moving to University College Hospital Medical School to work on gas gangrene. He moved again during the war to Rothamsted Experimental Station, Harpenden, where he was supported by an ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship and researched on leaf protein, biochemistry of stored potatoes and the electron microscopy of plant viruses (with F.C. Bawden), using one of the first electron microscopes in Britain. He was appointed to the Rothamsted staff in 1945.

In 1947 he moved to University College London where he joined the Biochemistry Department as Lecturer; he was appointed Reader in Biochemistry in 1952. Among his wide interests was the study of the mechanism of action of enzymes such as ribonuclease and creatine phosphokinase. He also developed an interest in the newly developing discipline of biochemical engineering, working on projects in collaboration with the UCL Department of Chemical Engineering (Professor M.B. Donald), for example the first production of coenzyme A in Britain. This led to the establishment of a lectureship supported by Arthur Guinness Son & Co. (Dublin) and a postgraduate diploma in biochemical engineering. However, he was greatly disappointed by the decision not to establish a chair in biochemical engineering.

In 1963 Crook moved to the St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College as Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Chemistry. His interest in biochemical engineering continued in association with the UCL Department of Chemical Engineering with research initiated while he was still at UCL on enzymes on solid supports. He built up and expanded his department so that it became highly successful, finding space, for example, for a research group in gastroenterology. An important achievement was the introduction of an intercalated year in biochemistry for medical students in the University. This started as an Academic Diploma but was later changed to a B.Sc. He retired in 1982 with the title of Emeritus Professor of the University of London.

Crook was a founder editor (with M.B. Donald and E.L. Gaden of Columbia University) of the Journal of Biochemical and Microbiological Technology and Engineering (later Biotechnology and Biochemical Engineering), first published in 1959. He was very active into retirement in consultancy with biotechnology companies. He died 4 July 1993.

Arrangement

By section as follows: University College London, Lectures, Publications, Societies and organisations, Non textual material, Biographical. Index of correspondents.

Conditions Governing Access

Please note that spaces are limited and you must make an appointment first. Admission is by UCL ID and/or by completing a reader application form for consultation for manuscripts and archives.

Acquisition Information

The material was received from Mrs Julia Crook, widow, via Professor Peter Dunnill, Department of Biochemical Engineering, University College London.

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Eric Mitchell Crook, (1914-1993), biochemical engineer. NCUACS catalogue no.147/4/06, 24 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath.

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Dr Tim Powell, NCUACS, 3 September 2007