Andrew Bruce Holmes

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Andrew Holmes

Holmes in 2015
Andrew Bruce Holmes

(1943-09-05) 5 September 1943 (age 80)
Melbourne, Australia
NationalityAustralian and British
Alma mater
Known forNatural product synthesis, Organic electronics
Scientific career
FieldsOrganic Chemistry
University of Melbourne
Imperial College London
University of Cambridge
Doctoral advisorFranz Sondheimer
Other academic advisorsAlbert Eschenmoser (postdoc)
Doctoral studentsChristine Luscombe[4]
Other notable studentsAndrew Ian Cooper (postdoc)[5]

Andrew Bruce Holmes AC FRS FAA FInstP (born 5 September 1943) is an Australian and British senior research chemist and professor at the Bio21 Institute, Melbourne, Australia, and the past President of the Australian Academy of Science. His research interests lie in the synthesis of biologically-active natural products (spanning therapeutic materials to new biotechnological probes) and optoelectronic polymers (with applications to electroluminescent flexible displays and organic solar cells).


Holmes' undergraduate studies and masters' research were conducted at the University of Melbourne in Australia. Travelling to the UK on a Shell Overseas Science Scholarship, he performed his PhD work at University College London under the supervision of Franz Sondheimer.[6][1]

Career and research[edit]

As a postdoctoral researcher, Holmes worked on the total synthesis of Vitamin B12 with Albert Eschenmoser.[7] In 1972 he was appointed as a demonstrator to the University of Cambridge where he stayed for 32 years, ultimately as Professor of Organic and Polymer Chemistry, and Director of the Melville Laboratory for Polymer Synthesis[8] where he oversaw the founding and initial decade of the Melville Laboratory.[5]

Holmes' early work at Cambridge expanded his interest in new techniques for synthesising small molecules that are biologically-active and practically-useful, including natural products (such as alkaloids) and peptidomimetics. In 1989, during systematic characterisation of a newly synthesised conductive polymer, Chloe Jennings working in Holmes' research group observed that the polymer emitted light when a current was passed through it. An intensive period of research in Holmes' group, and other polymer chemistry groups, led to the discovery of differently-coloured light-emitting polymers that spanned the visible colour spectrum. A subsequent collaboration with physicist Richard Friend and co-workers at Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory revealed the potential of these conjugated polymers for applications such as organic LEDs and rollable displays.[9] Friend and Holmes co-founded the company Cambridge Display Technology[10] for commercial exploitation of these materials – an early success story of Silicon Fen.

In 2004 Holmes returned to his native Australia on a Federation Fellowship, to lead a group at the newly established Bio21 Institute. He has pursued the application of photovoltaic polymers to solar energy, and was instrumental in forming the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium. He has also continued to develop new syntheses of novel, biologically-useful materials. An example is his groups' synthesis of phosphoinositides, amphiphilic phospholipids situated in the cell membrane, which collaborators at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research have used to probe the dynamics of signal transduction (intercellular signalling being an important component of many aspects of cell biology, including that of tumors).[11]

Holmes has served on the editorial or advisory boards of numerous learned scientific journals, including Organic Letters, Chemical Communications and Angewandte Chemie. In 2006, his 1998 paper on electroluminescent polymers was the most highly cited paper in Angewandte Chemie's 120-year history.[12][13] By August 2012 he had authored over 490 scientific papers and 52 patent applications. In 2014 he was appointed as President of the Australian Academy of Science.[14]

Awards and honours[edit]

Holmes was elected Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2000,[2] and Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 2006. In 2003, he received the Descartes Prize and in 2012 the Royal Medal of the Royal Society. His formal titles include Chemistry alumnus, Laureate Professor of Chemistry, University of Melbourne; CSIRO Fellow, CSIRO Division of Materials Science and Engineering; Emeritus Professor and Distinguished Research Fellow, Imperial College London; Fellow of the Royal Society; Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science; Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering; and Foreign Secretary and (as of 2014) President of the Australian Academy of Science. In 2011, he received the Royal Society of Chemistry's John B Goodenough Award.[15]

In 2004 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia "for service to science through research and development, particularly in the fields of organic synthesis and polymer chemistry";[16] and in 2017 was appointed Companion of the Order of Australia for eminent service to science through developments in the field of organic and polymer chemistry as a researcher, editor and academic, and through the governance of nationally recognised, leading scientific organisations.[17] He was awarded the 2021 Matthew Flinders Medal and Lecture.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Holmes is a keen hillwalker and an enthusiastic aficionado of classical music, from baroque to romantic opera.[19] During his time in Cambridge he was a member and regular volunteer at St Columba's United Reformed Church. He lives in Melbourne and Lorne, Victoria with his wife Jennifer.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Biography – Prof. Andrew B. Holmes". The University of Melbourne – The Holmes Group. The University of Melbourne. n.d. Retrieved 2 January 2021.
  2. ^ a b Anon (2000). "Professor Andrew Holmes AM FRS".
  3. ^ "Andrew Holmes". Australian Academy of Science – Andrew Holmes. Australian Academy of Science. n.d. Retrieved 2 January 2021.
  4. ^ Luscombe, Christine (2004). Surface modifications using supercritical carbon dioxide. (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. OCLC 890159456. EThOS 615893.
  5. ^ a b Mang, Stephan; Cooper, Andrew I.; Colclough, M. Eamon; Chauhan, Naren; Holmes, Andrew B. (2000). "Copolymerization of CO2 and 1,2-Cyclohexene Oxide Using a CO2-Soluble Chromium Porphyrin Catalyst". Macromolecules. 33 (2): 303–308. Bibcode:2000MaMol..33..303M. doi:10.1021/ma991162m.
  6. ^ Holmes, A. B. (1971). The synthesis of large-ring conjugated systems (PhD). University College London. ProQuest 301295009.
  7. ^ A. Holmes; H. Maag; N. Obata; P. Schneider; W. Schilling; J. Schreiber; A. Eschenmoser (1972). "Total Synthese von Vitamin B12". CHIMIA. 26 (320).
  8. ^ Melville Laboratory for Polymer Synthesis
  9. ^ J.H. Burroughes; D.D.C. Bradley; A.R. Brown; R.N. Marks; K. MacKay; R.H. Friend; P.L. Burns & A.B. Holmes (1990). "Light-emitting diodes based on conjugated polymers". Nature. 347 (6293): 539–541. Bibcode:1990Natur.347..539B. doi:10.1038/347539a0. S2CID 43158308.
  10. ^ Cambridge Display Technologies
  11. ^ Conway, S. J.; Gardiner, J.; Grove, S. J. A.; Johns, M. K.; Lim, Z. Y.; Painter, G. F.; Robinson, D. E. J. E.; Schieber, C.; Thuring, J. W.; Wong, L. S. -M.; Yin, M. X.; Burgess, A. W.; Catimel, B.; Hawkins, P. T.; Ktistakis, N. T.; Stephens, L. R.; Holmes, A. B. (2010). "Synthesis and biological evaluation of phosphatidylinositol phosphate affinity probes". Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry. 8 (1): 66–76. doi:10.1039/b913399b. PMID 20024134.
  12. ^ Kraft A, Grimsdale AC, Holmes AB (2 March 1998). "Electroluminescent Conjugated Polymers – Seeing Polymers in a New Light". Angewandte Chemie International Edition. 37 (4): 402–428. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1521-3773(19980302)37:4<402::AID-ANIE402>3.0.CO;2-9. PMID 29711177. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012.
  13. ^ Thomson ISI, 3 August 2006
  14. ^ "Andrew Holmes appointed President of the Australian Academy of Science".
  15. ^ "Royal Society of Chemistry – John B Goodenough Award – 2011 Winner". Royal Society of Chemistry. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  16. ^ Member of the Order of Australia (AM), 26 January 2004, It's an Honor.
  17. ^ "Companion (AC) in the General Division of the Order of Australia" (PDF). Australia Day 2017 Honours List. Governor-General of Australia. 26 January 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 January 2017. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  18. ^ "2021 awardees". Australian Academy of Science. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  19. ^ Margaret Throsby interviews Andrew Holmes Archived 20 December 2012 at the Wayback Machine, ABC Radio's Midday Program, 8 August 2012, Australian Broadcasting Corporation/classic

External links[edit]