Dr. A. Ian Scott, the pioneering Texas A&M University chemist who discovered how bacteria produce vitamin B12 and other insights that helped revolutionize organic and natural product chemistry, died Wednesday (April 18) of an apparent heart attack, according to his family. He was 79.
Private burial arrangements are pending for the eminent chemist, who came to Texas A&M in 1977 and was named a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry in 1981. As holder of the Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry and as the D.H.R. Barton Professor of Chemistry, he achieved worldwide renown for his work with vitamin B12, the essential life pigments chlorophyll and heme, the cancer drug taxol and other antibiotics that fundamentally impacted the field of biosynthetic investigation.
During Scott’s 30-year Texas A&M career, he made tremendous scientific contributions, both to the University and to the international chemistry community, said Dr. H. Joseph Newton, dean of the College of Science.
“Texas A&M has lost an extraordinary chemist and gentleman,” Newton added. “We have been very fortunate to have him in our midst. He will be greatly missed.”
Scott also served as director of the Texas A&M Center for Biological Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and was a member of the Chemistry/Biology Interface Training Program.
Dr. Frank M. Raushel, Davidson Professor of Science at Texas A&M and a colleague in the Department of Chemistry, described Scott as “a scholar of extraordinary achievement” who pushed all sorts of envelopes, groundbreaking and otherwise.
“Professor Scott will be best remembered for his outstanding contributions toward the elucidation of the biosynthetic pathway for the assembly of vitamin B12,” Raushel said. “The Scott laboratory was one of the pioneers in the application of nuclear magnetic resonance methods to identify natural products and also follow chemical events in living cells. I shall never forget his attempt to obtain the NMR spectrum of a typical Texas cockroach.”
In 1994 the A. Ian Scott Endowed Lectureship was established at Texas A&M in Scott’s honor to provide funds for an annual lecture by a renowned chemist or biochemist that broadened educational opportunities for students in bio-organic chemistry.
“Ian Scott has made numerous contributions to bio-organic chemistry, and his published papers and invited lectures have contributed greatly to our efforts to build a nationally and internationally recognized chemistry program here at Texas A&M University,” said Dr. David H. Russell, Applied Biosystems/MDS Sciex Professor of Mass Spectrometry in Chemistry and head of the Department of Chemistry. “He was also a wonderful person, possessed a great sense of humor and was truly a gentleman.”
A decorated researcher and scholar, Scott’s many awards include the Queen’s Royal Medal from the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2001), the Davy Medal (2001) and Bakerian Lectureship (1996) from the Royal Society of London, the Corday-Morgan (1964) and Natural Products (1996) Awards from the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Tetrahedron Prize and Medal for Creativity in Organic Chemistry (1995) and the Robert A. Welch Award in Chemistry (2000).
Most recently, Scott was honored with the American Chemical Society’s 2003 Nakanishi Prize for his successful efforts to replicate the vitamin B12 creation process in a test tube. In 2002 he was named Distinguished Texas Scientist of the Year by the Texas Academy of Science.
Born and educated in Glasgow, Scotland, Scott received his doctorate from Glasgow University in 1952 and previously occupied chairs of chemistry at the University of British Columbia, the University of Sussex and Yale University before coming to Texas A&M. In addition, he received honorary degrees from the University of Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris and the Universidade de Coimbra in Portugal.
A Fellow of The Royal Societies of London, Edinburgh and Chemistry as well as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Scott is a member of the European Academy of Arts, Sciences and Humanities. He has authored three books, 26 chapters in books, nearly 450 journal articles and one patent.
Scott is survived by his wife of 57 years, Elizabeth Scott, of College Station; a son and daughter-in-law, Will and Cabrina Scott, also of College Station; a daughter and son-in-law, Ann and David Ryder, of Southlake, Texas; and six grandchildren.
Scott’s life will be celebrated next month in a public memorial service scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, May 12, at Christ United Methodist Church, located at 4203 State Highway 6 South, College Station, Texas 77845.
In lieu of flowers or other offerings, the Scott family has requested that donations be made to the A. Ian Scott Endowed Scholarship to support students pursuing degrees in chemistry in care of the Texas A&M Foundation, 401 George Bush Drive, College Station, Texas 77840-2811. Cards, letters and other written forms of condolences also may be addressed to the A. Ian Scott Family in care of the Department of Chemistry, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843-3255.
Contact: Shana Hutchins, 979-862-1237 or [email protected]