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16 October 2014

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Williams the Drug Test
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Prof Richard Tecwyn Williams FRS
Gelli Crug Junior School and Secondary School, Abertillery

Williams the Drug Test

In a nutshell
Richard Tecwyn was famous for exploring the chemistry of how drugs affect the human body.

Track record
Rugby lover Richard Tecwyn was the first of five children.

He began a systematic approach to the study of drug metabolism. He was almost alone in doing in vivo studies (in the living body) as opposed to in vitro studies (in test tubes); the drug industry only caught up decades later. He established pioneering techniques of drugs analysis and metabolism monitoring. Richard Tecwyn was very prominent among those who led the way, largely because he had devoted himself to an unfashionable science.

Throughout his long academic career he kept up an active interest in the third world. He was closely involved with developments in science education in Nigeria.

In a tribute to him after his death one of his colleagues wrote Tecwyn Williams was a true scholar. His great strength was his ability to reduce complex issues to practical simple terms.

The Science
Foreign compound metabolism is now an established part of medicine called pharmacology and toxicology. This was originally researched by German organic chemists in the early part of the 19th century. They were fascinated to see that some organic substances, when introduced into the body of an animal, produced chemical reactions rather like they had seen in test tubes.

The study of foreign compound metabolism developed fast, due to the birth of a chemical industry capable of manufacturing heavy chemicals and pharmaceuticals like aspirin.

Scientists needed a chemical basis for understanding the toxic effects of these substances, but in vivo science wasn't fashionable from 1930 to 1950. Having nevertheless persisted in carrying out in vivo studies, Richard Tecwyn was proved to be right, but not in the way he would have wanted; in 1960 - 1962 the tragedy of Thalidomide came out.

Where do Wales' great Scientists come from?


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