Professor Raymond U. Lemieux (or “Sugar Ray” as he was nicknamed) was born in Lac La Biche, Alberta, Canada in 1920. He obtained a B.Sc. (Honors) in chemistry from the University of Alberta and Ph.D. in organic chemistry from McGill University, followed by a postdoctoral scholarship at Ohio State University where he conducted research on the structure of streptomycin.
After his return to Canada, he briefly held a research position at the University of Saskatchewan before moving to National Research Council Prairie Regional Laboratory in Saskatoon as senior research officer in 1949. There he completed the first chemical synthesis of sucrose. In 1954, he joined the University of Ottawa, where he established the Department of Chemistry and helped establish the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences. During his tenure in Ottawa, he pioneered the application of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to the structure elucidation of natural products. In 1961 he moved to the University of Alberta in Edmonton where his research focused on the special bonding properties termed “anomeric effects” and how these controlled the chemical reactions and shapes of carbohydrate molecules. This work led to the first chemical syntheses of the complex carbohydrates found on human cell surfaces (e.g., antigenic determinants of blood groups and subgroups) and to an understanding of how the shapes of these molecules control their function. He also developed ways to produce semi-synthetic antibodies, rubber-related compounds and heavy water. Upon his retirement in 1985, he became Professor Emeritus at the University of Alberta.
cience, were the Izaak Walton Killam Award, Canadian Medical Association Medal of Honor, Gairdner International Award, the Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering and the Albert Einstein World Award in Science.
In 1990, the American Chemical Society published his memoirs titled: Explorations with Sugars: How Sweet it Was. He was a Companion of the Order of Canada and the Alberta Order of Excellence. He was also inducted to the Canadadian Hall of Fame. Professor Lemieux died in 2000, at the age of 80. The University of Alberta named a chair, an annual memorial lecture, and the building and laboratory where he used to work in his honor.