ICUMSA News n°21 – 1994

Message from the President

In my last message I discussed some of our past achievements and possible future directions. I would like to pursue the future directions a little more. I recall Brian Whitehouse saying in 1989 [l] ,,In my view, the activities of Subject G9 should not dwell on·old ‘grandfather methods’ but those concerned with the determination of the sugars composition of products ranging from maltodextrins to high DE dextrose syrups”. I think that the thought expressed here should apply equally well to other subject areas in ICUMSA. Updating our Methods Book has clearly drawn our attention to our willingness to cling to old classical methods when we should be looking towards methods which are less labour-intensive, and which may more accurately measure the analyte of interest.

We are of course mindful of the fact that some sugar industries are ill equipped to adopt highly sophisticated instrumental methods because of the expense and technical expertise involved. Overcoming this difficulty is the challenge before us. There will be profit for all of us if we can make these methods less costly and easily used by analysts normally employed in our factories. Since the scientific resources within members’ sugar companies are probably lower today in real terms than any time in the last forty years, it behoves us to use those resources wisely. I sense that members believe that extensive collaborative testing of out-of-date methods is a poor use of our resources. Perhaps we need to look again at the programme to bring all the methods in our Methods Book up to a uniform high standard. We could give our highest priority to those which are likely to survive the next twenty years. If we cannot envisage a method being used in twenty years time, perhaps we should not spend the time and money on a collaborative test today.

In some cases, the new method to replace the old one may not even be in place yet. This should not deter us from declining to spend more money on the old one. Rather, the money saved can be devoted to getting the new method investigated. In my laboratory (CSR Central laboratory) we are seeking new labour-saving methods to replace some of the classical methods used in the Australian sugar industry. One that we think especially merits attention is the determination of fine grain content in raw sugar. The current method is especially labour intensive involving the washing of the sugar to produce free flowing crystals that can be successfully screened. We are hopeful of working up a method employing one of the several particle size analysers available. I would hope there are other members who hold similar views and that we can discuss these in Havana and beyond.

1 Whitehouse, D.B.: Zuckerind. 114 (1989) 411

In memoriam Dr Albert Carruthers

Dr Albert Carruthers, former Director of Research of British Sugar, President d’Honneur of the Commission Internationale Technique de Sucrerie (CITS) and Honorary Life President of the International Commission for Uniform Methods of Sugar Analysis (ICUMSA), died on Tuesday, 25th of January, shortly after his 93rd birthday. He was the last representative of a generation of scientists and technicians who, after the second world war, built up the basis for an enormous technical development of the sugar industry all over the world and especially in Europe.

Born in Cumberland of a Dumfriesshire family, ,,Ace” as he was affectionately known, had an outstanding scientific career before joining British Sugar. He obtained his first science degree at St Andrews, after which, in 1924, he carried out postgraduate studies leading to his Ph.D. working on carbohydrates under Sir Frederic Gowland Hopkins, well-known as one of the discoverers of vitamins. In 1927 he left Cambridge and worked for the Rockefeller Foundation in Peking, as an Associate Professor in biochemistry. It was in China that he met and married ,,Mac” who was an American nurse also working there, and their two sons, Peter and Robert, were born there. In 1935, just before the Japanese invasion, the family moved to England and Dr Carruthers took up a Research Fellowship at Birmingham University under Sir Walter Norman Haworth, famous for his work in carbohydrate chemistry. During World War II, Dr Carruthers was assigned to the Bristol University for work on explosives. He also served on the National Advisory Council, which brought him into contact with industry when advising factories on scientific problems. He decided to stay in industry after the War and worked for the Research Department of Guinness initially, before being asked, at the instigation of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, to set up a research establishment for the British Sugar Corporation. Thus, at the end of 1946 he commenced his major contribution to the beet sugar industry.

Typically, he commandeered a small office in the BSC Central Laboratories at Peterborough, and from there he toured extensively throughout the European beet sugar companies to study the progress in new technology and the short-comings necessarily brought about during the war years. To exploit these advances and to combat the losses, he planned the first BSC Research Laboratory, which was formed by extensive modifications to an old country house, Bramcote Grange near Nottingham, and with a recruited team of about twelve scientists the new laboratory started serious work in 195 1. Understanding of factory performance in regard to sugar production and its quality was a primary task and this demanded a knowledge of the constituents of beets and juices which in turn became a major objective of the group. Newly emerging analytical techniques, in particular chromatography in all forms, were applied to give more rapid, more specific and more useful data than had ever been obtained before. More than fifty papers, based upon the analytical knowledge obtained and applied to issues ranging from beet varieties, fertilizers, harvesting and clamping, as well as to all aspects of beet processing, were written and presented to technical meetings in the period up to Dr Carruthers’ retirement in 1966.

His achievements received world-wide recognition. A founder-member of CITS, he was elected President of the Scientific Committee in 1963, following Prof. Dedek who died in 1962. In this capacity he presided over the General Assemblies in Paris (1963), Falsterbo (1967) and Brussels (1971). He resigned in 1971, not because he felt tired, but rather to focus on his main interest. After the death of Prof. Dubourg in 1969, Dr Carruthers was asked to take over the organization of the ICUMSA Session 1970 in London, as acting President. So, at the age of 70 he served as President of the two most important commissions of the sugar industry.

ICUMSA had his special preference and so his official election to the highest office of this organization in 1970 may be regarded as the culminating point of his scientific career. He had served ICUMSA since 1949, when this international body started its activities again after the second world war, first as an Associate Referee and then from 1958 as a Referee. He became Chairman of the British National Committee in 1954, and he presided over the Sessions in London (1970), Ankara (1974) and Montreal (1978). Everyone who attended the Sessions of the two international commissions under the presidency of Dr Carruthers will remember with admiration his sovereign and cordial attitude when steering the discussions and leading them to successful results.

He also presented papers regularly to the Winter Sessions of IIRB (and attended many of the more rigorous Summer Meetings!). His many contributions to the American Society of Sugar Beet Technologists were acknowledged by his election as one of their Honorary Life Members.

Dr Carruthers was never a desk-bound scientist. He appreciated that knowledge has no value unless spread amongst one’s associates. He was an enthusiastic traveller (he took what was then the hard way home from Peking, via the Trans-Siberian Railway), a skilled raconteur, much in demand at the dinner table and so, not surprisingly, a wine-buff and a gourmet, with a flair to the good cigar. He had an inbred affection for all who struggle with the uncertainties of sugar production. It is no wonder that so many throughout the world were proud to be considered his friends. Sport was not to be ignored either; a talented golfer, though unconventional on occasions, Ace helped to foster the St Andrews-style of play during the early years in Peking. He also had an excellent eye for cricket, whether playing or watching, and few could equal him as a judge of the play in Rugby Union. With his wife, Mac, also in her nineties, he spent his last years in Canterbury, but he was not ,,retired”. The problems and progress of the sugar industry and especially ICUMSA affairs were never far from his mind.

With his wife, his children, grand-children and great-grand-children the ,,sugar-family” mourns the loss of a most amiable colleague, a great scientist, and many have lost a good and trustworthy friend.

Albert Emmerich and John Dutton

ICUMSA News from the Canadian Committee

by Malcolm K. Faviell, Chairman, Canadian Committee of ICUMSA (1971- 1994)

Perhaps ICUMSA ,,Meanderings” would be a more apt title for this contribution rather than ,,News” for it covers a number of diverse topics.

First and foremost, I was most saddened to learn of the death in January of Dr Albert (Ace) Carruthers at the grand age of 93. My association with him on both a technical and personal level goes back only to the mid 60′ s when he first visited B.C. Sugar’s Vancouver cane refinery for ,,technical consultations”. From that time onward there was a constant flow of communication both personal and scientific, which for me culminated in the 1978 ICUMSA 17th Session in Montreal. As Chairman of the Host National Committee I was privy to Dr Carruthers’ final remarkable performance at the age of 78 as the President of ICUMSA before he relinquished the reins to his successor Professor Dr Reinefeld. During his tenure as President of ICUMSA there were a number of very difficult decisions to be made and to my mind he was the very essence of a ‘Diplomat’. He abhorred a ‘vote’ on contentious issues and with his diamond sharp intellect would find some other way to deal with the problem. In all matters he was the epitome of a ‘Gentleman’, a rare bird indeed in these increasingly materialistic times. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

By now you should have already the first of this years’ ICUMSA News articles which contained a ‘Future of ICUMSA’ message from our President Dr Murray Player and Dr Roger Wood’s comments on the importance of Methods Standardization. I agree wholeheartedly with what they both have to say. I have keenly observed the transition from the era of predominantly esoteric methods of analysis, which seemed to take forever to progress from ‘Tentative’ to ‘Official’, to the current approach for more practical methods of analysis for the day-to-day trading of sugar products. To be a viable organization in this day and age it is essential that we concentrate our efforts on providing sugar products and users with the tools for rapid, validated, accurate and up to date analytical methods. In addition, it must not take multiples of four years to provide these methods. Even today to attempt to find the pertinent method of analysis for a sugar product using Dr De Whalley’s (1964) and Professor Dr Schneider’s (1979) ICUMSA Methods Books and the more recent ICUMSA Session Proceedings is extraordinarily cumbersome. I am sure we can all agree on that. John Dutton’s new ICUMSA Methods Book, while being eagerly awaited by all Sugar Chemists, should not be viewed as the answer to all our prayers. While it certainly represents another milestone in ICUMSA’ s progress there are undoubtedly going to be some very obvious gaps in its content. I believe it is ICUMSA’s priority task to fill in these gaps as soon as possible rather than refine, to the ,,second decimal place”, those mainstream Official methods that already exist within the book. A case perhaps for optimal use of our monetary and manpower resources.

One example that comes to mind is the continuing ambivalent regard for the Karl Fischer method for the determination of water content (Subject 5, Dry Substance). It still remains ‘Tentative’ and ‘continues to be studied’, whatever that means. I would take ‘odds’ on it not appearing in the Methods Book. I have little doubt that many chemists harken back to the days, not so very long ago, when the name ‘Karl Fischer’ conjured up images of complicated glassware, an extraordinarily smelly titrant solution that was said to cause sterility in males, difficult analysis procedures and false .endpoints that produced worthless results. In addition, the titrant appeared to rapidly deteriorate so that standardization had to be carried out virtually before each series of determinations. Well, science and technology has caught up with us and the modern automatic Karl Fischer apparatus as produced by, say, the Swiss company Metrohm, is extremely easy to use, takes care of the false endpoint problem and produces fast highly accurate results. In addition, the smelly Karl Fischer reagent has now been replaced by the non-smelly Hydranal solvent/titrant solutions which are stable and require, in our experience, only weekly standardization. Modern Karl Fischer has revolutionized the meaning of ‘dry substance’ in our laboratory. Everything that requires a water content analysis from white sugar to molasses goes through the Karl Fischer equipment and a determination takes only 5 to 10 minutes depending on the nature of the sample.

I was one of those who championed the need for a full-time professional secretariat and I still believe that to be the case. The Commission’s day-to-day operation and continued focus are onerous and require an extraordinary amount of time and dedication. We are indeed, very fortunate in having Dr Player, with the support of CSR, to carry and reshape the role of ICUMSA toward the more practical validated methods of sugar analysis that are so urgently required. Dr Murray Player, we thank you for your dedication and effort on behalf of ICUMSA.