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.
Obituaries of Crook appeared in 'Cell Biochemistry and Function' vol. 11, issue 4, p.ii and 'St Bartholomew’s Hospital Journal', Spring 1994.