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Tributes paid to Dr Andrew McLachlan

Tributes have been paid to Dr Andrew McLachlan FRS (1935-2022) who died on 7 July 2022 aged 87.

In his early years, Andrew McLachlan was taught by his mother before attending Pilgrim’s School in Winchester aged nine. In 1948 he won a scholarship to Winchester College and then a scholarship to study Maths and Physics at Trinity.

After his undergraduate study, he obtained a studentship in 1956 to work with Professor Chris Longuet-Higgins on magnetic resonance and in 1958 he was awarded a Trinity Fellowship for Theoretical Chemistry. McLachlan spent two years in the United States on a Commonwealth Fund Fellowship and on his return in 1961 he was appointed Trinity College Lecturer in Physics.

He was a member of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge from 1967–2006.

McLachlan pioneered methods for analysing and interpreting the sequences and structures of DNA and proteins and collaborated with biochemists Michael Gribskov and David Eisenberg in 1987 to introduce the method of ‘profile comparison’ (a means to detect similar or repeated protein sequences).

His early interest in magnetic resonance continued and he co-authored the classic textbook, Introduction to Magnetic Resonance (1967), with chemist and spectroscopist Alan Carrington.

Elected to the Royal Society in 1989, McLachlan’s research focussed on studying chemical processes from the point of view of physics and understanding the interactions between the various systems inside our cells. He pioneered powerful methods for interpreting and analysing the sequences and structures of DNA and proteins.

As Treasurer of Trinity in Camberwell in the 1970s and early 1980s, he led a successful fundraising campaign to provide a new centre and a charitable endowment.

Trinity Fellow Keith Moffatt, Emeritus Professor of Mathematical Physics, recalls meeting Andrew McLachlan for the first time, in 1959.

I was in my first year of research, and was privileged to be invited for sherry in Andrew’s rooms in Great Court. He was keen to get to know research students across all disciplines in the College, and was a generous and entertaining host. At this party, he let slip that he was getting married in London the following Saturday and invited me to the celebration. I gladly accepted, and enjoyed this memorable wedding.

Jenny and Andrew were our friends ever since, and were for a while in the 1970s our close neighbours in Barton Road, where our children were growing up in parallel. Andrew bore the loss of Jenny in 2018 with great fortitude, and faced with equal courage the more recent death of his third son Alexander.

Professor Boyd Hilton, Trinity Fellow in History, remembers Andrew McLachlan’s plain speaking.

A very kind and well-meaning man, obviously, and a brilliant scientist who crossed the borders between chemistry, physics, and molecular biology. He sometimes offended those who did not know about his good heart because he spoke rather dogmatically and was inclined to stick to his guns in an argument until—as not infrequently happened—he acknowledged an opposing point and gracefully yielded ground.

Professor Moffatt said he would be sorely missed by the Trinity community.

Andrew has been a lively colleague in Trinity for well over half a century, keenly opinionated, and always eager to share his views on controversial matters. Trinity will surely miss his somewhat startling, but always thought-provoking, intelligence at our High Table and at College Meetings in the Combination Room.

Dr Andrew McLachlan

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