Obituary Jack F. Pennock (1935 – 2014)

Jack Pennock, a former member of staff of the Department of Biochemistry passed away after a long illness on 21st February, 2014.

Born in 1935, he was first and foremost a proud Yorkshireman, having grown up in Scarborough. Jack was a most popular member of the University and contributed enormously, not only to the Department of Biochemistry, but to the University at large where his legendary common sense and good humour were often called upon by colleagues across the campus. Jack entered the University of Liverpool as an undergraduate in 1953, graduating with a first class honours degree in Biochemistry in 1956 and then going on to gain his PhD in 1959 under the supervision of Professor R A Morton. His seminal work involved the discovery, isolation and structural elucidation of Ubiquinone, a key component of energy production in cells. At about the same time, a group from Wisconsin also discovered ubiquinone, naming it Coenzyme Q.

It has since been shown to be a powerful antioxidant and is now a best-selling ‘over the counter’ dietary supplement. Jack continued at Liverpool with 2 years of post-doctoral work funded by a Cancer Research Fellowship and went on to discover and characterise dolichols (long-chain isoprenoids), that are critically involved in glycoprotein synthesis. Lately, dolichols have been implicated in changes in brain lipids associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Jack also played a major role in the clarification and elucidation of the family of vitamin E compounds. Ultimately, he became a world authority on the structure and biosynthesis of isoprenoid compounds, the general group to which all the foregoing substances belong.

In 1961, Jack married Phyl, also a biochemist, from the Isle of Man. They then immediately spent an enjoyable year in America, where Jack was a postdoctoral researcher at Indiana State University in Bloomington. They returned in 1962 to Liverpool, with new baby, Anne in tow: their other daughter, Jill, was born in Liverpool. Jack re-joined the Department of Biochemistry in Liverpool as Lecturer and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1972.

Jack always contributed enormously to the running of the Department of Biochemistry, serving on several of its committees, organising Open Days, and participating in most of its teaching courses, including appreciable input into Medical student teaching. Jack was undoubtedly one of the most gifted and popular lecturers and his honesty and integrity contributed much to his popularity among staff and students. For many years from 1971, Jack was Admissions Sub-Dean for Biochemistry, Chemistry, Oceanography and Materials Science within the Faculty of Science.

In his latter years at the University, Jack was frequently called upon to help and advise on Personnel matters, serving on numerous panels for that administrative department. Here, he brought much common sense to proceedings. In 1991, he was elected Head of Department of Biochemistry at the University of Liverpool, an appointment that was viewed by colleagues as most popular. Sadly, owing to sudden ill-health, Jack had to step
down in 1993 and retired from the University in that year. He and Phyl moved back to his beloved Yorkshire to settle in Scalby (near Scarborough) in 1999. Unfortunately, his retirement was marred by protracted ill-health. Despite this, he continued his passion for bird-watching with Phyl almost until his passing.

Jack was an ardent Liverpool Football Club supporter and a passionate Cricketer, being a member and leader of the University Staff team for many years. Even through his illness, Jack never stopped being a scientist, often explaining to his consultants how the drugs they were prescribing actually worked. Jack could turn his mind to a wide range of subjects and so it was that he found himself acting as consultant to Derek Worlock, then Archbishop of Liverpool, on gluten-free altar breads, a role which culminated in correspondence with none other than a certain Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) of all people.

Jack was a passionate, successful, inspirational and well-respected scientist worldwide, an ideal research supervisor, a first-class mentor, and superb teacher. Above all, he will be fondly remembered as a family man and friend to all who came across him.

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