Herchel Smith and the Fund

“The impact of this legacy has been momentous and I have every confidence that its contribution to Cambridge research will continue to gain in importance."  Ian Leslie

During his lifetime and following his death in December 2001, the University received under Herchel Smith's will the largest ever individual bequest to a British University at that time.

Herchel Smith, born in Plymouth (UK) in 1925, was a distinguished organic chemist who invented and patented new chemical reactions for the synthesis of novel steroids, including the contraceptive pill. His research interests can be traced back to his time as an undergraduate at Emmanuel College where he read for the Natural Sciences Tripos, matriculating in 1942 with distinction. He went on to study organic chemistry as a graduate student under Professor Alexander Todd and was awarded his PhD at Cambridge in 1952. He became a postdoctoral fellow at Oxford University and then a lecturer in organic chemistry at Manchester University before moving to the United States to work for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. During his retirement Dr Smith endowed four Cambridge Professorships, research fellowships at Emmanuel College and joint postgraduate scholarships for Emmanuel and Harvard graduates.* Herchel Smith died in West Chester (USA) in 2001 leaving substantial bequests to many of the universities and colleges he had been associated with. His bequest to Cambridge has provided financial support in perpetuity for the initiatives he previously supported and for the endowment of five new Professorships and a programme of studentships and postdoctoral fellowships.

The impact of Herchel Smith’s legacy in Cambridge has been immense and will continue into the future, not least because the generous endowments he provided for his professorships attract leaders in their field to Cambridge, who inspire and motivate a whole new generation of talented researchers, and the endowments for fellows and PhD students attract the future field leaders.  Already Herchel Smith Postdoctoral Fellows have moved on to important posts elsewhere and the first Herchel Smith PhD student has just completed.

*For details of the Herchel Smith Scholarships and Travel Grants for Emmanuel College members, please see http://www.emma.cam.ac.uk/about/jobs/harvard/.