Dr. Archer Martin, a British biochemist who won a 1952 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering one of the most widely used analytical techniques for separating and identifying the parts of complex mixtures, died on July 28.
He was 92.
The prize for developing the process, known as partition chromatography, was shared with Dr. Richard Synge, who died in 1994.
Dr. Martin, while working at the Wool Industries Research Association in England in 1938, was investigating the amino acids that make up the proteins in wool fiber, but he had trouble studying them because their similar chemical structures made it difficult to separate them using established methods.
Dr. Martin and Dr. Synge found a way to separate amino acid mixtures by exposing them to different solvents. They found that if they added methyl orange, a dye, to an amino acid mixture and poured the solution down a glass column filled with ground up silica gel and water, the amino acids would separate.
Over the next few years they improved the technique by replacing the separating column with a slip of paper and a stationary liquid. With that technique, the amino acids would separate into a series of spots on the sheet and, by dissolving the spot, scientists could measure the amounts of particular amino acids in different proteins.
The technique made it possible to isolate the individual amino acids and nucleic acids that are the basic building blocks of all living things. The process is widely used today in chemistry, biochemistry and medicine. It also helped lead to the discovery of the first amino acid sequence in insulin, for which Dr. Frederick Sanger won the Nobel Prize in 1958.
Archer John Porter Martin was born in north London. He earned his undergraduate and doctorate degrees at Cambridge.
As a child, he had dyslexia and could not read properly until he was 8. Still, he fell in love with science and even built five-foot-high distillation columns in his basement similar to those used in oil refineries to extract gasoline from petroleum.
Dr. Martin joined the National Institute for Medical Research in Britain in 1948 and, four years later, was named director of its division of physical chemistry. He became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1950, received several medals and awards, and taught at the University of Houston from 1974 to 1979.
In the 80's, Dr. Martin developed Alzheimer's disease and became one of the first volunteers for a trial of one of the earliest treatments for the disease. The drug, Cognex, is one of the few that have been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
He is survived by his wife, Judith Bagenal, two sons and three daughters, according to the British daily The Guardian.
Dr. Martin's later career produced no new important findings. In 1979, when he was dividing his time between the University of Houston and the University of Sussex in Britain, the Texas university decided not to approve renewing his annual appointment to work after the age of 65 because he had published so few papers.
At the time, one supporter pointed out that while Dr. Martin had published only 70 papers when the average scientific researcher might expect to publish 200, his ninth paper won him the Nobel prize.