Alexander George Ogston was born on 30 January 1911, in Bombay, India. When Ogston was three, his family returned to the UK and lived in and around London. From ages eight to thirteen he attended Kingston Hill Preparatory School. He was offered a scholarship at Eton, where he started as a classics scholar, but soon after switched to chemistry.
In 1929 Ogston was awarded a Brackenbury Scholarship at Balliol College, Oxford. In 1933 he achieved a first-class honours degree in chemistry. In 1933 he applied for and was granted a limited-period Junior Demonstratorship in Balliol. His research interests shifted towards biochemistry.
In 1935 Ogston accepted a Freedom Research Fellowship to work on proteins with Ensor R. Holliday at the London Hospital. It was during this period that he first became interested in apparent anomalies in the ultracentrifugal behaviour and osmotic pressures of mixtures of proteins that became a recurring theme in his research.
Balliol offered Ogston a Fellowship in 1937 and agreed that he could spend the first year reading honours physiology while at the same time performing the tutorial teaching of first-year and second-year medical students. He was appointed Departmental Demonstrator at the Department of Biochemistry in 1938. These two appointments carried with them heavy teaching responsibilities.
From 1938 to 1959 (with a few breaks during World War II) Ogston carried the full load of tutorial teaching of medical students and later of biochemists, as well as pursuing his own research. 1945–1955 was Ogston’s most enterprising and productive period. It was during this time that the long-sought solution to the ultracentrifugal anomaly was reached, as the Johnston–Ogston effect (1946), and the Ogston three-point attachment paper was written (1948). He was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society and appointed Reader in Biochemistry in 1955.
In 1959 he took up an appointment as Professor of Physical Biochemistry at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University (A.N.U.) in Canberra, where he remained until 1970. He then returned to Oxford as President of Trinity College. On his retirement in 1978 he held Visiting Fellowships at the Institute for Cancer Research, Philadelphia, and the John Curtin School of Medical Research, A.N.U., where the late research was undertaken.
Ogston was awarded the Davy Medal in 1986. He died on 29 June 1996.
The surviving material is not large, mainly because of Ogston's travels to and from Australia and his preference (stated in the correspondence) for travelling light. Thus, there is little biographical material or personal correspondence. The main content relates to research projects and publications. Ogston's own designations of his folders have been preserved.
The collection contains:
Section A: Biographical and Personal [MSS. Eng. misc. b. 408-410]
Section B: Scientific Research and Publications [MSS. Eng. misc. b. 410-416]
List of research topics:
Section C: Correspondence [MS. Eng. misc. b. 417-418]
The main bulk of the material was made available by Dr. Ogston on his retirement from Oxford in 1978. Sets of late research notes and drafts were passed on by Ogston in November 1980.
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A fuller description and detailed index are available in the Library and at The National Archives.
Ogston | Alexander George | 1911-1996 | Biochemist