An achievement which has eluded the efforts of many great scientists — the production of sugar by synthetic means — is credited to an Alberta graduate, Raymond Lemieux, and his Swiss associate, Dr. George Huber.
Although the actual work on the experiment took only three months, it was the fulfillment of a promise Dr. Lemieux made to his wife five years before. The method was, first, to synthesize maltose. With the knowledge thus gained, a method was found of making a derivative of glucose and a derivative of fructose react to form sucrose, or common sugar. It had previously been possible to produce fructose and glucose in the test tube but the difficulty lay in finding a method of combining them. The discovery has been compared by Dr. Henry Gass, president of the Sugar Research Foundation, to the climbing of Mt. Everest. It will aid in understanding the properties of sugar and its utilization in the human body.
Dr. Lemieux was born in Lac la Biche, came to Edmonton at the age of nine, and attended Sacred Heart School and St. Joseph's High School. He received his B.Sc. in Honors chemistry from the University of Alberta in 1943. He then went to McGill, where he studied for his Ph.D. under Professor C. B. Purves. A year at Ohio State University on a Bristol Laboratories Fellowship followed.
From 1947 to 1949 he was associate professor of organic chemistry at the University of Saskatchewan. He has been with the Prairie Regional Laboratory of the National Research Council for the past four years and is now head of the Chemistry and Plant Products section of the laboratory. His specialty is the chemistry of carbohydrates. His associate in the sugar discovery, Dr. George Huber, is a graduate of the University of Zurich, now doing fellowship research at the same laboratory.
Dr. Lemieux's wife, Virginia, is a Ph.D. graduate from Ohio State University. She is also known at the University of Alberta, having replaced Dr. J. L. Morrison while he was on sabbatical leave in 1948 and 1949. Dr. and Mrs. Lemieux have two children, Laura, four years old, and Virginia, one. His father, Octave Lemieux, lives in Edmonton.
Published Fall 1953.