McMaster University
Dr. Donald W. Hughes (1949 – 2010) Print E-mail


We lost Don Hughes, an excellent NMR spectroscopist last weekend.

Everyone who passed through the NMR Facility at McMaster was impressed by his skill at running
a spectrometer and solving challenging molecular structures. Even those who did not do much
NMR spectroscopy usually took his excellent graduate courses. There are many reasons to
remember Don, but let me give a few personal ones.

I met Don first in 1977, when he was a graduate student at McMaster and I was a postdoc. It was
amazing what he could coax out of a 90 MHz iron magnet spectrometer, both in alkaloid
structures and sorting out the assignments of RNA oligomers. Careful, painstaking effort yielded
an impressive body of work. I can still see the look on his face when he saw the first spectra
obtained on the new 400 MHz system at Guelph. That transition from 90MHz iron magnets to
400MHz supercons was a once-in-a-lifetime one.
It was around this time (1979-80) that Don, Jeremy Everett and I started our 2D-NMR work (still
using the iron magnets), which launched my long collaboration with Don. He and I published 16
papers together, and he collaborated with many other people, at Mac and elsewhere. Happily, our
latest paper has just been accepted for publication, so that forms part of his legacy.
After graduating from Mac, Don worked in Toronto with Charles Deber at the Hospital for Sick
Children and in the NMR Facility in Chemistry Department of the University of Toronto, working
partly with Bill Reynolds. He then returned to McMaster where he and the late Brian Sayer,
continued to build our first-class NMR facility.

Perhaps I am biased, but I think that Don's favorite activity was running a spectrometer, from a
WH90 or XL100 through to a brand-new 700 MHz instrument with a cryoprobe. He also was an
excellent photographer, very interested in astronomy, and played a mean game of tennis, I hear.
In all these activities, he showed his typical careful, meticulous nature. As well as us working
together in the lab, I remember many trips to ENC (side trips to Palo Alto and Point Lobos),
SMASH, and demo visits when we shopped for spectrometers. He was quiet and private, but did
have an excellent dry sense of humour once you got to know him. I think we will all miss him.

Alex D. Bain
Professor of Chemistry
McMaster University

Chemistry & Chemical Biology
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