Donald Nicholson was born in 1916 and graduated in Chemistry in
1936, followed by a Ph.D of London University in 1940. He spent the
the war years as a chemist in a large pharmaceutical firm where he
developed the production of the first synthetic antibacterial drugs,
sulphonamides. In 1946 he went to the Bacteriology Department of the
Medical School at Leeds as an ICI Research Fellow in Chemotherapy
Here he was involved in the teaching of Bacterial Metabolism at the historic
time when bacteria were being largely used to determine the chemical nature
of genetics and of life itself—leading to the elucidation of DNA. As more
pathways of metabolism were being discovered, he realised the importance
of integrating them by putting the pieces together to complete the jigsaw.
For five years he hand-drew Metabolic Pathways Charts and had them
"blue-printed" in the Architect's office. The first printed copies appeared
in 1960 and received an enthusiastic reception by some of the best-
known biochemists of the time—including Hans Krebs. Since then
22 editions and over a million copies have aimed to keep up to date
with their rapid evolution.
At the age of 80 he bought a computer and the first "Minimaps" were
created. These show smaller, individual, pathways which include additional
factors such as co-enzymes, regulation and cellular compartmentation.
Being of "page" size, the minimaps have proved a valuable and popular
format for the internet and available freely throughout the world.
Latterly, Dr Nicholson was working on what he regarded as the most exciting
development of all his work—"Animaps". These show the movements of
molecules into their exact positions to align with the active sites of their
enzymes prior to reaction. The animaps also show the detailed
movements of bonds and electrons which is a characteristic of chemical
reactions—hitherto largely interpreted in textual publications by curly arrows.
In recognition of his work, Donald Nicholson has been awarded an Honorary D.Sc. and has been made one of only two
Special Life Members of the IUBMB.