Bookmark and Share

George Jeffrey (1915-2000)

George Alan Jeffrey was born in Cardiff in 1915 and received a Bs.C. in 1936, a Ph.D. in 1939 and a D.Sc. in 1953 at the University of Birmingham. He then moved to the University of Pittsburgh to teach Physical Chemistry. There, George Jeffrey created the Crystallography Laboratory, which in 1969 became the first Department of Crystallography in the USA. He was its Chairman until 1985 and Professor Emeritus until his death on February 13th.

At the beginning of his long research career in Pittsburgh, Jeffrey studied the structures of clathrates, discovering a surprising variety of different forms derived from the dodecahedron; later, he began a systematic structural study of carbohydrates, first by X-ray diffraction and later also by neutron diffraction. In both areas he became one of the world's leading authorities on the subject. These studies led him to question the classical formulation of hydrogen bonding and to spend many years reviewing and organizing all the data and knowledge concerning this type of chemical interaction in a great variety of compounds, from aminoacids to nucleotides, barbiturates, from purines and pyrimidines to carbohydrates and, more recently, in proteins. In his many lectures and papers on this subject he contributed significantly to the advancement of Science, implementing new concepts and definitions, which he summed up in the book he wrote with Wolfram Sanger on 'Hydrogen Bonding in Biological Structures', published by Springer-Verlag in 1991. Over the last years of his career, Jeff became increasingly interested in structural studies of very high precision, correlating low temperature neutron diffraction studies with ab initio calculations and electron density studies, and the study of liquid crystals and inclusion compounds. His scientific career is well documented in more than 300 papers, reviews and books.

The enormous creativity, energy and enthusiasm of George Jeffrey was also devoted to the benefit of the scientific community. Jeff contributed to the establishment of the American Crystallographic Association, of which he was President in 1963, the Program Chairman for the Eighth General Assembly and Congress of the International Union of Crystallography in 1969. He was also Co-Editor of Acta Crystallographica between 1973-1984. His many awards included the Pittsburgh award (1978), the Claude S. Hudson award (1980), the Alexander von Humboldt Senior U.S. Scientist Award (1983- 84), the ACA Buerger award (1988) and the David Harker Award at the Annual Meeting of the American Crystallographic Association in Buffalo, NY, in recognition of his pioneering work in the field of crystallography, his landmark studies of sugar structures by X-ray and neutron diffraction, his studies of the properties of the hydrogen bond, and his founding of the only university crystallographic department in the U.S.

Jeff was an enthusiast, always full of life and a great supporter and advisor for many of us in the generation that followed his pioneering actions. 'His' Crystallography Department in Pittsburgh was known and visited by many colleagues, post-docs and students to whom he always offered advice with his strong teaching and friendship. Many of us learned from him the basic principles of Crystallography, how to write a winning grant proposal or even how to organize a conference or a course. He was very proud of the Department´s list of visiting scientists and students, with more than 200 names, some more than once, for whom he always had an open door, a word of encouragement and good moments of relaxed, well humored and friendly atmosphere!

I shall never forget the way I first met him as a crystallographer. Back from my Ph.D. in London I was in Portugal, with nothing more than an old Weissenberg camera, trying to start research work at my University. I met Jeff and Maureen in 1980 at the European Crystallographic Meeting in Barcelona and after five minutes of conversation he offered me the possibility of going to Pittsburgh for the period that my teaching duties would allow, to do my own research work, using all the facilities available in his Department, including a salary as Visiting Professor. Since then, a great friendship started that, with time, was extended to many other Portuguese Crystallographers. We were all very happy and proud, later on, to see Jeff receive in 1991 a 'Honoris causa' Doctorate from the Technical University of Lisbon. In his fluent, direct and humorous style, he then made a speech, zooming from science to human behaviour, that immediately conquered the Portuguese academics, even those who did not have the privilege of knowing him before.

I am sure that, like myself, many other crystallographers around the world, will remember Jeff as a great scientist, a man of vision and wisdom, a charming, deep human being and a precious friend. Maureen, a perfect and gentle partner, further reinforced his qualities during their long marriage and companionship.

Beyond the frontiers of life, Jeff is surely now part of another world of Peace and Love, a state to which he much contributed during his earthly existence.

Maria Arménia Carrondo

To honor Jeffrey, a fund to support graduate student attendance at IUCr Congresses is being established by the Pittsburgh Diffraction Society. The Jeffrey Awards will be open to students of crystallography throughout the world. Please send donations in US currency to Dr. Bryan Craven, Chemistry Dept, Indiana U. of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA 15705. Checks should be made out to 'The Jeffrey Fund/Pittsburgh Diffraction Society'. Donations are tax-deductible in the USA.