Honour for the king of the dyes

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Falkirk man Donald Sarfas retired from his career in chemistry at the age of 58, but never from the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Now aged 97 he’s still passionately involved with the progress of international scientific developments, and is an active player in the RSC locally and nationally.

He’s also a brilliant advocate for the idea of following chemistry as a lifelong career.

Mr Sarfas says no other discipline really comes close when it comes to intellectual challenge and stimulation – it’s the love of chemistry, in fact, which has kept him young.

Three RSC colleagues – Doug McMillan, Martin Jones and Frank Murray – recently paid Donald a visit to present him with a certificate marking no less than 75 years as a member.

It was an important moment in a distinguished career, which included important dye-patenting work for ICI Grangemouth back in the 1960s.

He was a problem-solver, still remembers unique dye-codes, and has numerous professional successes to his credit.

One he singles out, however, is his unfailing encouragement to young people setting out on their own careers.

Originally from Southend-on-Sea, he was fully involved in important chemistry work during the war years, gaining RSC Associate Membership in 1942 and BSC Chemistry in 1943.

Then in 1945 he moved to ICI in Manchester, where he also married his sweetheart, Vera, before taking on new challenges in South Wales and then in Central Scotland.

In all that time the RSC was both a support, a resource, and an inspiration.

What advice does he have for the upcoming generation of young chemists?

“If you want an absorbing career with a real hands on mix of practical, problem solving plus intellectually stimulating and demanding day to day work then its only Chemistry can give you that because that’s my experience,” he said.

“Chemistry can take you anywhere in the world to work - it is international.”