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B.C. from a Roman Perspective

Maurizio Brunori / Biochemistry Department, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy


I was acquainted with B.C. from the early ‘60s since he was friend with Eraldo Antonini and had visited Rome more than once (see picture 1). However for me the memorable event that stands out is the two days (or better the two nights) spent watching Brit in his dark-lab at the JF while doing experiments with the low-temperature triple trapping method, to detect intermediates in the reaction of cytochrome oxidase with oxygen, published in 1975 with C. Saronio and J. Leigh.

It was very exciting indeed to stand behind Brit’s shoulders watching him to fire the flash, look at the recorder and interpret the spectra of the intermediates, their build up and decay. But equally exciting was to talk now-and-then about sailing, as I dreamed at the time to buy a faster more advanced yacht. Brit immediately suggested that since on my way back to Europe I was going through Cambridge to see Max Perutz, I should visit Mr. Richardson of the Elephant Boatyard at Old Bursledon, near Plymouth; the man was the builder of the quarter tonner Chance 24’ designed by BC Jr. I went, saw Gretel II, and fell in love; she was a very original and beautifully built sailboat, though quite spartan. In the spring of 1974 she was floating in the Mediterranean, and later Brit came twice for a sail near Rome. I deeply appreciated his quick smart suggestion.

Brit has been my mentor for sailing and I still have in my room an elegant picture of him at the helm of Complex II (see fig 2). I never worked for him though we discussed pulsed-oxidase quite frequently; we always went along very well, possibly because I never signed a scientific paper with him. Together, we only wrote the preface to a volume of the NY Acad. Sci. (1988) containing the papers presented at a Meeting organized by the two of us and held in Rome and in the Convent of Santa Teresa (Caprarola) where the structure-function relationships and the physiopathology of cytochrome oxidase were discussed in depth. The meeting was also an occasion to honour Brit who had just been elected foreign member of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, the oldest Academy in the world founded in 1603; since than, he frequently visited the Lincei Academy for meetings and talks. He was always excited by the latest experiments; he will be missed....

– Maurizio Brunori