Dr David Kelly (1955-2008)


Dave Kelly’s contribution to the British Workshops began at their foundation.  His humour, dedication and enthusiasm were a vital part of events.  The shock of his untimely decease may thus be imagined. This applied not just to the Network, but naturally to his School, the University as a whole and anyone who had the privilege to know him.

In tribute, the UK Semiochemistry Network includes a Memorial Lecture.  The speakers come from international universities, and a list may be seen to the right.  Donors for funding this highlight of our meetings include ECRO, a longterm supporter of our group.  The obituary from Cardiff University is reproduced below.

David Kelly received his Ph.D. degree from the then-flourishing Chemistry Department at the University of Salford under the guidance of Professor Stanley M. Roberts and Dr Roger Newton. This was followed immediately by a prestigious Postdoctoral Fellowship at Oxford University, where he worked with Professor Sir Jack E. Baldwin, FRS. 

During this latter appointment, David worked on various aspects of the emerging field of the use of radicals in Organic Synthesis. Between them, Baldwin and Kelly produced a number of important and seminal contributions to this very active and competitive area. These high profile research activities acquitted him well in the synthetic organic chemistry community and it was therefore no surprise when, in 1984, he secured a lectureship in organic chemistry at University College, Cardiff. 

He soon established a flourishing research group, which was mainly focussed on the chemistry and synthesis of various insect pheromones, an important field, in view of the damage caused to many crops by insect predation. Throughout his career in Cardiff, he maintained an active research group and it is significant that these activities are distinguished by the fact that two former members of the Kelly group have gone on to forge successful careers of their own as lecturers (now both senior lecturers) in other UK University Chemistry Departments. 

In later years, his research continued to be characterized by a remarkable level of insight and lateral thinking, which was always aimed at achieving a deeper level of understanding in a particular area of the science. 

Along with these activities, he will no doubt be remembered for his presentations of chemistry to a wider audience, across the whole spectrum ranging from specialised chemical students to lectures to the general public. He had the outstanding gift of being able to project his chosen subject and always retained his audiences' attention: few would ever fall asleep during a Kelly lecture. His was a remarkable ability to enthuse about and explain chemical principles and his memorable lectures on chemical attractants and insect pheromones, amongst other subjects, were delivered with a keenness and style which was inimitable and which will be remembered throughout the UK. 

Throughout his career in Cardiff, David was a great supporter of the chemistry conferences which were held at the University of Wales centre at Gregynog, especially the annual gathering of younger UK organic chemists and the high profile ESBOC chemistry-biochemistry meetings. His absence from subsequent meetings will be keenly missed by organisers and participants alike. The same is true of his colleagues in Cardiff where he always contributed a significant share of teaching and administrative tasks alike.

Professor David Knight, Cardiff School of Chemistry. Reproduced from the University of Cardiff website.