Skip to main content

Sidney Alan Barker (or Alan as he preferred to be known) passed away peacefully on Sunday 14 October 2018 at the Moundsley Care Village Nursing Home, Kings Norton, Birmingham after a brief illness.

Born and raised in Lovells, Birmingham, the son of Gladys (Allen) and Philip Henry Barker, a tinsmith. He was the second eldest of four children.

Music was encouraged from an early age, with both the violin and piano being learnt. It was however at the piano that Alan excelled and from an early age he played duets with his eldest sister Olga and on several occasions they played on the radio for Children’s hour hosted by Uncle Mac.

Alan achieved high grades during his school years at Handsworth Grammar School and developed a special affinity for history and chemistry. In September 1944 he commenced his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry at the University of Birmingham and went on to achieve a first class honours, followed by his PhD a few years later. He specialised in carbohydrate chemistry and the department by this time had become world renown following the achievement of Professor Haworth in synthesising vitamin C for which he won a Nobel Prize. Following the submission of 51 papers Alan was awarded his Doctor of Science in 1957 and was made Professor of Carbohydrate Chemistry in 1969. During the period that followed he not only travelled worldwide but also worked closely with industry and many of the top 100 companies. He was recently recognised for 60 years membership and support of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

He retired from the University and teaching when he was 65 years but carried on with some consultancy work and it was shortly after this that his first wife Miriam Ruth Barker passed away with cancer. They had been married for 42 years and had three children; two daughters and a son. He remarried shortly afterwards to Jean Clare and is survived by his widow.

Later in his career and during his retirement he developed a passion for history and after tracing the family history back to 1100 AD, he applied for and was granted a Coat of Arms. He was as sought-after for his skills on lecturing in the heraldry field as in chemistry.

He has donated both his chemistry research and much of his history collection to the Special Collections section of University of Birmingham Library.

The University thanks Professor Barker's daughter Jane Shirley for sharing her father's story. Our thoughts are with her family at this sad time.