Charles Arcus
Recalled by Friends, Colleagues & Students

Most of the following contributions were received following Graham Barrett's letter in ‘Chemistry in Britain’, the remainder from letters received after Charles's death. Many thanks to everyone who wrote. I've edited people's recollections only slightly and arranged them in approximately chronological order.

From Ted Searle:

I started full time at the Poly around the end of 1945. The organic research lab was fairly small, with two island benches and three along the sides. Remembering the single door, drop from the windows, use of solvents and flames, it would probably horrify a modern safety officer!

On 15 May 1946, Charles was brought in and introduced by JK (Dr Joseph Kenyon, Head of Chemistry). The next day Charles came in and chatted with us, leading to my non-committal comment 'seems quite agreeable'. We worked on adjacent benches, though I only remember him distilling methyl methacrylate prior to experiments with it. The pleasant smell remained in my mental card index (or floppy disc?) for fifty years before I eventually recognized it when having an impression taken for a denture. I did however know of his earlier work elucidating the structure of arachidonic acid. He started lecturing on 23 September, and six days later blew up the sodium lamp I had bought for polarimetry the day before – comment not noted!

We frequently had a boat on Battersea Park Lake summer lunchtimes. On one occasion CLA took the opportunity to dispose of a bottle of degraded sodium under oil, made sure nobody was looking, and lobbed it into the water, where signs of reaction soon appeared on the surface. The bottle is probably still there.

In the 1940s, we always wore neckties (except possibly in heat-waves). One day Ian Anderson greeted CLA with ‘Where's your tie, Charlie?’ CLA clutched his neck, said ‘B––––– women sat opposite me at breakfast and never said anything!’, and went straight out to buy one. He was shortly due to lecture.

In addition to walking and boating, groups of us also went to the theatre, and Charles came to some of the Poly. Gilbert and Sullivan performances in which Jeanne, Bob Crick and I were involved (the Cricks kept it up for over 50 years).

In July 1947 a large group of us went to the Faraday Lecture given by Sir Robert Robinson, PRS, recorded in Brock's history of chemistry as an ‘embarassing lecture’ which had his chemical rivals Hughes and Ingold exchanging 'indulgent bemused glances'. My recollection (not recorded) is of Charles after perhaps five minutes muttering ‘He's drunk – I'm not staying here’, getting up and walking out.

The Collège Franco-Brittanique in Paris was then offering two-week stays there, and I think I probably persuaded Charles to accompany me, travelling on 1 September 1947 via Newhaven-Dieppe to Paris St-Lazare. In the evening we went out for a glass of wine, served with the meaning comment ‘Service non inclus’

The next day there were time-consuming formalities with police and town hall regarding rationing, etc., but we spent several days exploring bits of the city and we had a train trip out to walk in some country. Barely two years after the war ended in Europe, food was pretty poor there, and on the 8th Charles was depressed after a bad night. I said there was no need to stay if he did not want to, and I saw him off again on the 09.30 train on the 10th, looking cheerful once more! I saw the two weeks out.

On 6th May 1948 Charles was in a staff-student cricket match, his first since 1927. I was in a similar match, after nine years, on 1 July, being bowled first ball, but do not know how Charles had performed.

I was spending less and less time in the lab, working on my thesis, Charles giving me helpful advice. I submitted my thesis in October and had my viva just before Christmas. After a number of interviews, I started in mid-November in a post at the University College Hospital Medical School. I continued for a while with some evening teaching and in the Operatic Society. Jeanne and I were married in 1949.

Jumping on to 1953, when I had moved to the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, CLA came to dinner and we discussed a possible student project, later discarded.

On a snowy 8 March in 1958, Charles came into the Cancer Research labs in Birmingham, after driving in his Standard 8 from Coventry where he had lectured the previous evening. After a quick tour of the labs, Medical School and University, he drove me home to Marlbrook, and we walked up onto the Lickey Hills after dinner. He brought chocs for Jeanne and me, and toys for the boys. Peter (who called him 'Grandpa' at first) was thrilled with his plastic van and took it to bed with him for a long time afterwards. The next day we drove to the top of the famous Lickey Incline; we only saw a down train, missing the impressive sight of a steam train being banked up as it was Sunday. Charles left in the snow the next morning.

Charles and I also met briefly at the Memorial Symposium for Dr. Kenyon, at which he spoke, then finally in Farnham in 1983.

From A.C. Littlejohn:

I was a Chemistry student at Battersea Poly during 1947-50 and thus was one of Dr Arcus' first batch of students. He lectured us on Organic Chemistry throughout our first year. This was a time when, by government decree, 90% of student places had to go to ex-servicement who had missed normal opportunities as a result of war service, and this meant that the student body was very mature/stolid by normal standards. I was one of the few schoolboys in the 1947 intake whilst my partner in laboratory exercises was an ex-Lt. Commander RN, married with two children. In this environment, Charlie Arcus' air of slight eccentricity/rebelliousness provided a very welcoming lightening touch.

Dr Arcus had the sort of aura that attracted apocryphal stories. The one that I recall most clearly was that his research work involved significant quantities of metallic sodium and that the sodium residues were not easy to dispose of, probably due to a shortage of solvents at this time. Folk-lore held that Charlie carried his residues home with him in a paper bag and dropped them into the Thames as he walked over Chelsea Bridge. On one occasion, reportedly, the bag dropped alongside a passing string of barges, (in those days strings of barges carrying coal upstream to powerstations and gasworks in Chelsea and Fulham or waste paper to recovery mills in Battersea, were a common, quite frequent sight). The reaction of the sodium with the Thames on this occasion released a remarkable flow of unprintable invective from the bargee/steersman. We always regarded this story as ‘given truth’;, but had no clue as to its origin.

From Professor G.V. Boyd:

I think I was Dr Arcus's first research student, at Battersea Polytechnic from 1948-1950. He supervised my work in a subject connected to stereochemistry and reaction kinetics (see J. Chem. Soc. 1951, 1580).

There was one laboratory for research in organic chemistry. Since Dr. Arcus also had a place there I saw him nearly every day. I found that he was a good chemist, imaginative and erudite, always ready to discuss my results and to offer suggestions. It was a pleasure to work with him and I learnt a great deal.

Dr. Arcus was very reserved; he never talked about his private life and I really knew nothing about him. We discussed only chemistry. He had a dry sense of humour which I very much enjoyed.

I owe a great deal to him for his advice when I applied for my first appointment; I shall forever be grateful to him.

From Professor John Salmon:

I met Charles Arcus when I joined the staff of the Chemistry Department at Battersea in 1948.

I remember him as a shy man with a manner that could be quite gruff until he got to know you. It was then that you realised he was a warm hearted person, with a marked sense of fun, which was often only revealed by a twinkle in the eye accompanying some dry comment. He was a most conscientious and loyal colleague, who took his teaching responsibilities most seriously. I think the first year students were rather in awe of him, but as they progressed through the course they got to know him better and there was never any shortage of final year students wishing to do research under his supervision on graduating.

Supervising research students was one of his fortes and he inspired deep respect and affection among those who worked for a PhD under his guidance and that was something that they carried with them during their subsequent careers. He was particularly helpful to them as they embarked on their research, which was an activity very different from that of undergraduate study and one requiring a period of adjustment.

His own research and that of his students was published in a series of papers that commanded the respect of those working in the field. As a result, funding from bodies such as DSIR and the Science Research Council (now both defunct I believe) was forthcoming to support his research. Although his work did not reach a wide audience – he rarely attended professional conferences or presented papers, the quality of his research was such that he was awarded one of the first ever Readerships in a Polytechnic, a position confirmed by the University of Surrey when it was established.

I have referred to Charles' sense of humour, and can still recall the story of his setting fire to a lab boy's trousers (the owner was not in them at the time!) at Prices Candle factory. Another occasion relates to the University of London's requirement for an assessment of each student's practical work to compare with the result of the practical exam (in case of mishap during the latter, which was not strictly the student's fault). Those responsible for providing the information at Battersea were sitting in conclave with Charles sitting a bit to one side with his mind on other matters. When the majority were uncertain of their grading of one student, they appealed to Charles for his verdict; he looked up briefly, said ‘Good student, keeps quiet’ and resumed what he had been doing.

Another story which he told from his school days revealed that he and his fellow pupils at school used to travel home on the top deck of a tram, and run in unison from side to side until they had rocked the tram off its rails!

He had obviously spent a fair bit of time at the British Museum and was very knowledgeable on, amongst other things, Egyptology. A man of many parts.

From Norman Long, Peter Jackson and others:

I was part of the undergraduate group at Battersea in 1949-52, some of us just demobbed from the forces, some straight from school. The following are just some of our recollections.

One of our colleagues remembers ‘Charlie’ saying ‘if one can formulate a product containing water, one should make a profit; if one can do this with a large amount of water, one ought to make a large profit’.

Another colleague, a rather loud excitable chap, was unusually subdued on returning after the summer vacation. Charlie asked what was wrong, to which our friend replied ‘I can't put my finger on it, Sir’. The whole lecture theatre burst into laughter.

Another fellow was given to asking long complicated questions which were boring but had the object of showing off his knowledge, or so he thought. One such question was tiresome and very long and convoluted, and he prefaced it with ‘This may be a silly question, Sir, but if ...blah ...blah ...blah ...’ Charlie waited for the end of the question and replied ‘Yes, it is a silly question’, and carried straight on with the lecture.

On another occasion, Charlie was asked an abstruse question to which he replied, with marvellous confidence, ‘I don't know – and if I don't know, nobody else does!’

One day, while we were being shown pictures and formulae on an epidiascope, the lecturer was called out of the room and a wag slipped a picture of a nude onto the machine. On returning, the lecturer switched on the machine and switched it off immediately, so there was only the slightest glimpse of the lady. Without a word, the picture was removed and the formulae reappeared – this had obviously been tried before.

Charlie was teaching us about a group of chemicals which included skatole. This, it transpired, owed its fame to being the odour-producing principle in dog faeces, which produced much mirth in our undergrad minds. Charlie observed ‘Some of you will remember this and forget the other members of the group, and you will fail your exam’. The laughter stopped abruptly.

Whilst teaching us about di-carboxylic acids, Charlie observed that if you took the first letter of the name of each of them in homologous order you got OMSGAPSAS. This proved a useful mnemonic for me and a few years ago when we were at our reunion I asked if the others knew what OMSGAPSAS meant. After 40+ years everyone could remember, eg. Oxalic, Malonic, Succinic, Glutaric, Adipic, Pimelic and so on.

From Professor E.A.C. Lucken:

I studied for my BSc in Chemistry at Battersea Polytechnic during the three academic years October 1950 to October 1953 and of course followed the lectures given by Dr Arcus – or Charlie Arcus as we always called him – during that period. His presentation of basic organic chemistry was always clear and well presented; it was a subject he obviously loved. After my BSc I arranged to do a PhD under the direction of Alwyn Davies, but at the last moment the arrangement fell through and I therefore turned to Dr Arcus, who kindly took me under his wing and I started work with him on the decomposition of organic azides, a variant of the Schmidt Rearrangement.

For several months I worked happily under his direction in the organic chemistry lab at Battersea Polytechnic, a lab still frequented by J. Kenyon, FRS, the former head of the department. Each time we met to discuss my progress, Dr Arcus would make a note of our conclusions and projects for further work in a duplicate memo book – one page for me and the carbon copy remaining in his notebook for him. Every few weeks Dr Arcus and his research group would go to the pub across the road for a drink before we went home; Dr Arcus' preference was, I think, Stella Artois lager.

Unfortunately, neither my work in organic chemistry nor my stay at Battersea with Dr Arcus was destined to last very long, because in January 1954 I fell ill and the doctors declared that it would no longer be possible for me to continue to work in an organic chemistry laboratory. Thus it was that I became a physical chemist, doing a PhD under the direction of the late Professor M.J.S. Dewar at Queen Mary College. However, I am happy to be able to report that my four months work with Dr Arcus provided the material for my very first scientific publication:

‘Reactions of Organic Azides. Part IV. The Conversion of 9-Alkylfluoren-9-ols into 9-Alkylphenathridines. C.L. Arcus & E.A. Lucken. J. Chem. Soc. 1955.’

I met Dr Arcus on quite a number of occasions after I left Battersea, mainly during the first few years while my former classmates still there finished their Ph.Ds. For my part I was appointed an assistant lecturer at QMC in 1955 and was promoted to lecturer in 1958. I left England in 1960 for Geneva in 1960 where I have remained to this day. Although I regularly visit England I never had the pleasure of meeting Dr Arcus again, either in Battersea or in the University of Surrey.

As we grow older the memories of our youth seem to become even more clear and more vivid so I have no difficulty in conjuring up the scene as he walked into the lecture theatre at Battersea, wearing his short white laboratory jacket, shuffled his notes, wrote a title on the blackboard and turned to the class to begin his lecture. I particularly recall his kindness and moral support in those difficult days when I had to confront such a radical change in my life. I remember him with respect and affection.

From Andrew Loc Ba Le:

As a former student of Dr Charles L. Arcus from 1953 to the summer of 1959, I have many recollections of my teacher and mentor. I have kept fond memories of him since the summer of 1959 after he had helped me pass the viva voce for the PhD degree. Since leaving the United Kingdom for home (Vietnam) at the beginning of 1960 I have always remembered him as a very patient teacher, not only in the field of organic chemistry, but also in the English language. He not only rectified my scientific errors and misunderstandings, he also corrected my English in the doctoral dissertation that I had to write and submit to the University of London.

I also remember Dr Arcus as a man of great modesty and for his sense of humour. For example, when he had finally passed his driving test and obtained his licence, he said

‘The driving test was more difficult than the DSc degree itself!’

When he was conferred the DSc by the University of London, he quipped,

‘All I had to do was stack up the publications of my PhD students, make sure that they weighed a pound, and they would give me the DSc!’

From Henry Warson:

I was first introduced to Dr Arcus in 1953 when after a lengthy delay due to the war (my first degree was in 1938), I embarked on a part-time PhD course.

My recollections are that he was a rotund little man with a slightly squeaky voice. He was very helpful in giving me necessary advice which unusually was based on work which I did in my own time in the laboratories of Vinyl Products Ltd in Carshalton, where I was a Research Manager. At that time Dr. Arcus had a tiny office in what was a converted cupboard at Battersea Polytechnic.

I reported to him regularly over a number of years until 1961 when I finished all the practical work, but changed my post to be Research Manager at Dunlop Chemical Products.

My thesis was entitled ‘The Initiation of Vinyl Polymerisation by means of Diazonium Salts’. There was a delay of more than a year before I could write up the thesis due to the problems of moving from one town to another. Ultimately Dr. Arcus said very modestly that in converting my thesis to 2 papers which appeared in the German Journal 'Makromolecular Chemie' I could omit his name as he had conducted my research from long range.

I have very pleasant memories of Dr. Arcus.

From Leslie Cort:

I knew Charles since 1954 when I joined the staff at Battersea, where we knew him as a sympathetic teacher and painstaking research supervisor, as well as appreciating his wider-ranging general and particular knowledge when it came to doing the Times crossword puzzle.

I have a vivid, albeit second-hand, memory of him – when he was selling his house in Ewell, it was apparently not being quickly snapped up. Dr Irving went to see him and after looking over the place said that it surely wouldn't be long – after all someone would look at it and decide that they liked it in the same way that he had. The reply was immediate: ‘I've never liked this house. It was my mother who liked it!’

He was a learned scholar (his DSc was well-deserved and recognized as such by his colleagues) and a fine teacher. I recall being with him often at the Examination Halls in Brunswick Square for practical examination supervision for the University of London, where he always remembered what it was like for students facing that ordeal, and marked accordingly.

I remember his sense of humour too. One day at Battersea he came in beaming and full of pleasure. He had succeeded in disposing completely of an old horse-hair filled sofa by rendering it into very small pieces over many weeks and getting the dustman to take the pieces unwittingly away. He regarded this as a notable achievement.

In the Common Room at Battersea between lectures we always tried to do the Times crossword. CLA was routinely called on when we grappled with clues requiring abstruse or recondite knowledge. He would purse his lips, think, and then say ‘Is it and so..?’ and it often was, to his evident satisfaction (and ours).

Two sayings of his I remember, each volunteered:

‘When you buy a house, you want one with a waterworks on one side and a cemetery on the other – no-one's going to do anything to either of those’


‘If someone in the street keeps noisy chickens and you want to start a petition against this, don't go to the neighbours, they probably get eggs.’

Whether either of these statements applied personally wasn't clear.

His office wasn't far from the Organic Research lab at Battersea, and it was an unusual week if he didn't appear in the doorway at least once with the gentle request ‘Make less noise, please’. He never stayed to see if it went suddenly quiet.

From Dick Still:

I was at Battersea Polytechnic from 1956-63, both as an undergraduate and postgraduate student, and worked in Lab 330 – the organic chemistry research lab. During my time at the lab the following people were working for him: Mark Alger, Allen Halliwell, Tony Hall, Norman Salomans and Geoff Morley. He also had a part-time student whose surname was Randall.

On leaving Battersea in 1963 I became an Academic at the then Hatfield Technical College which after several name changes became the University of Hertfordshire. I left there for UMIST in 1970 where I remained until 1988 when I took early retirement. I have an Honorary Readership at the Manchester Materials Science Centre and still visit regularly as I am co-supervisor of one PhD student.

Dr Arcus was known by undergraduates as ‘Charlie Arcus’, but to colleagues and postgraduate students he was always known as ‘CLA’. He was a quiet, shy man who seemed to be a typical bachelor, but of course in middle age, to everyone's surprise, he suddenly announced his marriage, followed by the birth of two children.

He always wore a white ‘bum freezer’ lab coat when he lectured or came into the laboratory. He was a wonderful lecturer and everything was detailed and precise. As undergraduates we always dreaded his questions; he would point a finger at you and say: ‘That man there! How do you prepare this body?’ He always called molecules ‘bodies’. He would go around the class saying ‘Next man! Next man!’ then, despairingly, ‘Doesn't anybody know? Where's Still? Still, don't you know?’ Why he picked on me, I don't know – probably because it was a short and fairly unusual name with a chemical connotation.

As postgraduates, he was very supportive of us and would back you provided you were prepared to work. He had six or seven people working for him at a time and he had regular meetings with us, at which he gave detailed instructions about what was to be done next. Indeed, he used to write these instructions in a duplicate book and give us a carbon copy. There was no way we could go in a different direction to that prescribed. He visited the laboratory every morning and on those evenings when he was on duty, he would visit again at night around 8.30 pm. He always asked the same question: ‘Still, what have you done since I last saw you?’ On one occasion, in the morning, I replied that I had been to bed, but this did not go down very well! I think he had a sense of humour, though he always seemed a very serious man, totally committed to chemistry and research.

He was widely respected by his students, particularly those who had a more personal relationship with him as postgraduate students. He instilled in us a love of polymer chemistry and the sense that if something was worth doing it must be done to our utmost ability. We owe him a debt of gratitude for this.

From Peter Hallgarten:

It was his early organic chemistry lectures which directed my main interest into this field. When the time came for post-graduate studies, I was fortunate enough to have been selected for a group with him as supervisor for the first three years of lab work and paper writing. The products with which I worked were some of the smelliest and least desirable for such a long commitment. The results didn't follow the planned route, but nevertheless we succeeded in publishing three papers with new material.

There was much to be learned from his approach which could easily be translated into everyday life for the lab. He was meticulous in preparation, with incredible ranges of ideas for potential projects, and untold patience with all his students. A very good lesson was the complete minuting of every discussion to avoid any misunderstandings – very important over the years when memory starts to play tricks.

I am sure that we old ‘330’ laboratory students have many fond memories of him, not only the work and celebrations but the super grounding we received in preparation for the real non-academic world where expressing oneself clearly and simply was the essential formula.

CLA was a lecturer who could teach by inspiring interest so that students would enjoy the constant ‘puzzle’ of specific reactions and find it simple to think out possibilities for themselves. He was very much aware that the class members ranged from those with little interest beyond passing exams, to those with total enthusiasm for the subject.

I was fortunate that CLA agreed to take me on for 3 years of research for my PhD. Brimming with ideas, the period was a mixture of good and sad times. Not everything worked according to theoretical juggling with formulae, but when things worked 100%, it didn't take long before a further path into the unknown was planned and then attempted.

CLA was devoted to his students in lab 330. Everyone who started reached the finishing line, which speaks highly of the selection of students and more importantly the ideas behind the research projects.

From the students' point of view, we all felt that we were in very good hands, that even when we made mistakes we were redirected to correct procedures without anger, often with humour. Guidance was freely given; we were encouraged to discuss the projects amongst ourselves, and all the laboratory felt that they were part of a team, not only for the PhDs but also for publications in important journals. Generally a late evening worker, CLA joined all our 330 celebrations, with a standard request for 'A Stella' in the Old Grove pub, opposite the Poly, this at a time when imported beer was very avant-garde.

CLA was a very good administrator, with his energy in the research projects rather than in departmental politics, which with hindsight must have hindered his career path to a professorship. All who worked with him have the highest praise for their time in 330. I like to believe that all 330 students will have realised and retained the importance of methodical working in whatever career paths we followed after PhDs.

From Michael Upperton:

He was a very humorous man; it now such a long time since I attended Dr Arcus' lectures in the fifties, but do recall one story:

Dr Arcus did not like students going to sleep during his lectures and he had a very salutary way of waking them up by firing a question at the unfortunate sleepers. One day, he had drawn the structure of a large organic molecule on the blackboard and said the problem was how to chlorinate it, he looked around the lecture theatre and espied a sleeping student. In a loud voice he said

‘You! Yes, you!’,

The unfortunate student woke up covered in embarrassment, looking first at Dr Arcus, then the blackboard, saying nothing.

‘Now then, look at the molecule on the board.’

‘Yes sir!’

‘How would you chlorinate that body?’

Quick as a flash the student replied

‘I would put it in a gas cylinder with chlorine and stand it in bright sunlight.’

Even more quickly, Dr Arcus replied

‘Yes, you could do that – and you would get end substituted sunlight!’

It was happenings such as these that made his lectures memorable.

From Professor Les Larkworthy:

Charles was one of the senior staff at Battersea when I joined as a young lecturer in 1959. He was well known and highly respected then as a polymer chemist. As an inorganic chemist, I did not work closely with him although I did help with the inorganic aspects of the research a South African student called Neville Agnew did in the 1960's with him. I know that other colleagues thought highly of him too.

From Professor John Jones:

Dr Arcus, as I will always remember him, was the senior organic chemist when I joined Battersea in 1961, and it was he who looked after the organic section and maintained the high research reputation that it had gained as a result of the work of Dr Kenyon. Had he been around in more recent times he would undoubtedly have been made a professor, but in those days the title was rarely given, which was a pity.

From Jon Bacon:

Having graduated from Birmingham University in 1961, I then studied for a PhD with Charles at Battersea College from 1961 to 1964. A contemporary was Dick Still, the only one with whom I still have contact. Others, whose whereabouts are unknown to me, were Mark Alger, Mike Abrahams, Tony Hall and a chap called Solomons.

We all inhabited an old laboratory on the top floor of Battersea College – Lab 330 – and were a tight-knit and sociable group. Indeed we commissioned a ‘Lab 330’ tie which I still have! It was green with a 330 enclosed in a benzene ring in yellow. Dr Arcus inhabited a small office tucked into the roof of the building and was approached by an ankle-breaking set of tricky steps. We were called to daily audience in his office to be greeting by Charles behind his desk in his characteristic short white lab coat – more a white jacket. We would discuss progress or otherwise in our research projects and be given a hand-written set of instructions for the next phase of the work. Charles would retain a carbon copy.

I also recall that in this office there was a small door into the attics formed by the eaves of the building. In Dr Arcus' absence one day we opened this door to see what lay beyond. There, hanging from a beam on strings, was a parcel done up in newspaper. Fortunately we did not investigate too closely as we learned subsequently that it contained a bottle of nitroglycerine! I wonder if it is still hanging there following Battersea's translocation to the University of Surrey.

On one occasion I was responsible for accidentally using too much force when trying to open a large cylinder of boron trifluoride. The valve sheared off and the lab rapidly filled with very corrosive fumes. Everyone got out quickly and the door was closed. Dr Arcus sent Dick Still back into the lab wearing breathing apparatus to open the windows and to rescue among other things his research notes and a lady student's handbag. A neighbour of the college, seeing fumes pouring from the top windows of the college, called the fire brigade who arrived very quickly. I was not popular with the latter but Charles was very good in playing down the incident and letting me know that it was an accident that could have happened to anyone.

Battersea was not a rich college and we were encouraged by Dr Arcus to be very careful with, and to appreciate, the assets of the laboratory. This included a cupboardful of ‘Quickfit’ glassware assembled over the years by Dr Arcus, which was for communal use by all teams in the lab. It was part of the discipline learned there to ensure that anything used from this stock was put back in clean condition. One girl student was suspected of keeping her own ‘personal’ Quickfit taken from the communal stock in her bench cupboard. This so infuriated Mike Abrahams that he resolved to remove these communal items from her cupboard before she got in one morning. Unfortunately for him, she arrived as he was on his knees with his head in her cupboard presenting his backside as an inviting target. The young lady took aim and gave him an almighty kick – but she did put the glassware back eventually.

As mentioned above, money was not plentiful for equipment and we were encouraged by Dr Arcus to be inventive in the practice of our research. Rather than spend a lot of money on a simple piece of equipment, when we could make it or adapt something else, this we were asked to do. (He followed his own philosophy here, as illustrated by the simple hasp and padlock which he fitted to his car door after the normal lock ceased to function!) This attitude to the practical aspects of chemical research coupled with the rigorous mental approach demanded by Dr Arcus meant that we left Battersea with an excellent training as research chemists.

I know that Charles was a very kind man who took a great deal of trouble to look after the scientific and personal welfare of his students. He was a staunch defender of their interests. These aspects of his character were not obvious to those who did not know him. At face value, he could appear to have a dry sarcasm (which was usually very funny to those who were not the object of it) and he could be quite cynical about people and the world in general. This was not the man underneath and it may be that it was a shield because I believe he was quite a shy man.

I have another personal connection to Dr Arcus in that he and my father (Dr Reginald Bacon) were contemporaries at ICI, Blackley during the war. My father died last year so, sadly, I am not able to ask him about Charles. However, my mother (now 87) remembers that she and my father were with him on Armistice Day at the end of the war and celebrated together.