Mary Rosaleen Truter (1925-2004)

[Cox, Truter]Gordon Cox and Jackie Truter at the 1954 Paris IUCr
“Jackie” Truter (Lady Mary Cox) died from leukemia on 26 November 2004. Her career in X-ray crystallography began in 1945 and at her death she was still active as Visiting Professor in the Chemistry Department at University College, London. She was the widow of Sir Gordon Cox FRS.

Mary Rosaleen Jackman, “Jackie,” attended Imperial College, London, where A.J.E. Welch, who had given excellent lectures on crystal chemistry, started her on research with X-ray powder photography. After hearing Sir Lawrence Bragg at the Royal Institution she “was hooked on crystallography.” After graduation she got a job as Assistant Lecturer in the Dept. of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry at Leeds U. advertised for someone with “an interest in, but no necessary knowledge of, crystallography.” In 1947 she married Eric Truter, whom she had met as a chemistry student at Imperial College, a marriage that lasted until 1965.

She obtained her PhD degree, based on research to determine the crystal structure of nitronium perchlorate, from U. of London as an external student while carrying a heavy teaching load at Leeds. With her research students she achieved a considerable reputation with a series of papers on trimethyl platinum compounds, arising from syntheses by R.C. Menzies dating back to 1928. She was promoted to Reader in Structural Chemistry in 1960.

In 1966 she was appointed Deputy Director of a new Agricultural Research Council (ARC) Unit of Structural Chemistry at University College, London, and was soon made a Professor. The charge for her Unit, considered a risky idea at the time, was to look for complexes of alkali and alkaline earth metal cations in order to understand and even emulate the discrimination shown between sodium and potassium. They were indeed able to make some complexes and subsequently to determine the crystal structures of several of Pedersen’s crown ether complexes. (Pedersen, Nobel laureate 1987, had shown by 1967 that macrocyclic ethers extract metal salts into non-polar solvents and act selectively on these metals. He spent three months in the Unit in 1969.) Many papers were published including her 1973 review in Structure and Bonding “Structures of organic complexes with alkali metal ions” which was an ISI Citation Classic in 1989. She received a Chemical Society Award for Structural Chemistry in 1976. In 1977 the Unit was renamed the Molecular Structures Department and moved to new accommodations at the Rothamsted Experimental Station in Hertfordshire. The group had some very productive years, but in 1984 Mrs. Thatcher’s cuts of research that was considered “too basic” could no longer be staved off. The group was dissolved and Jackie moved to University College where she did some teaching and continued her research.

Jackie married Sir Gordon Cox, then Secretary of the ARC, in 1968. Gordon suffered increasing ill-health from 1992, and he died in June 1996. (He had retired from the ARC in 1971.) Jackie’s own leukemia was first diagnosed in 2002. In periods of remission, she continued to visit the College. She died in November 2004.

Especially as a younger woman, Jackie cut an attractive figure, elegantly dressed and independently stylish. She was a founding member of the BCA, a past chairman of the CCG and a trustee of the CCDC. At Rothamsted colleagues were always impressed with her dedication to the work, to her staff and students and to the laboratory. Her many friends in the UK and around the world mourn her passing.

Durward Cruickshank
taken from the ACA Newsletter, Summer