When I arrived in 1961 as a postdoc in Vincent Massey’s lab I was assigned bench space in the lab next to that shared by Gregorio Weber and Keith Dalziel, a preeminent kineticist of the time. Vince had made me aware that when it came to fluorescence theory, Gregorio had no peers. Vince knew only too well that the lab in which I had gotten my Ph.D. was not known for its physical biochemistry prowess. Gregorio and I arrived at the lab earlier than most members of the Department and at that time Gregorio was losing the sight in one eye (see Prof. Gibson’s memoir for details) so he tested his sight each day to gauge how things were progressing. The defective eye had to reach a certain degree of degeneration before surgery would be attempted. He knew his test was not precise but it gave him a benchmark. It is hard to believe that a scientist would devise anything quite so crude but other memoirs indicate that Gregorio was not a great experimentalist. From the window at the end of the hall just outside his lab, he could see the tower-block flats on the hill at the other side of the city and their clarity was his test. This test had a near fatal shortcoming in Sheffield before smoke abatement. How was he to know whether the degree of clarity or lack thereof was due to the state of his sight or to the state of the Sheffield air? This is where I came in. Each day he would ask me to tell him how well I could see the tower-blocks. Some days I would arrive to find him quite discouraged but I would then assure him that I could not see the tower-blocks either.
Lunch at Staff House was a wonderful tradition in British Universities. It was decided that because I was the only postdoc, I would be allowed to take lunch with the Faculty. It was of interest to this newcomer that some of the Faculty came every day (Vince and Keith), some occasionally (Gregorio) and some virtually never (Prof. Gibson). A game (or two) of snooker followed lunch but I never got the hang of it. I also remember derisive remarks about the Arts faculty who were propping up the bar.
Dinner at Prof. Gibson's was also a memorable occasion. By now I was engaged to an English woman and she was included in the invitation. She was just learning where one biochemical word ended and the next began. Angela had grown up during the war and that had conditioned her to clean her plate. Gammon was the main course. At the end of the meal, she looked around the table and to her horror saw that the fat had been dissected and abandoned round the rim of each plate; apparently biochemists knew something she didn't.
Sadly, at the end of my postdoc, this premier Department of Biochemistry, crafted by Prof. Gibson, was breaking up in what became known as the "brain drain". Prof. Gibson has described this in his memoir. It was a tragedy for Sheffield, but all of those who departed, especially Gregorio, found favorable venues in which their careers flourished. I am finishing this memoir in Sheffield. It may be of note that the present Vice Chancellor is interested in the Gibson-Weber era and in the actions and inactions of a predecessor.
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| Gregorio Weber in Cambridge | The First Floor | Memories | Reminiscences | Gregorio Weber at Cambridge | Friendship Renewed in Sheffield | Gregorio Weber, friend and mentor | Gregorio Weber: Some recollections | Appreciation | Recollections of Gregorio | Gregorio | "Stay in Sheffield": Gregorio's Sage Advice | Gregorio as Teacher | Golden Age | Memories of the Biochemistry Department Sheffield, 1961 | My Best of Times: With Gregorio in Sheffield and Urbana 1954-1964 | Weber Memoir | A Roman Connection | My Mentor at Urbana, Rome, Corvallis | Gregorio Weber, A Great Gentleman of Science | Fond Memories | Two Memories in Parallel | A Superb Interaction | An Appreciation | Short snippets |