Robin Ferrier did his PhD (1957) in the field of structural analysis of plant polysaccharides, and his main research interests since have never left carbohydrate chemistry which has undergone major revolution and developed massively increased significance – particularly in connection with chemical biology – in the last two decades.
Through the years there has been the chance to work on several topics of specific relevance to the New Zealand scene, for example an immunological approach to the treatment of facial eczema in farm animals and different aspects of cellulose chemistry. He learned about the topic of Lead in the Environment in New Zealand as Chairman of an RSNZ committee appointed to report to Government on the subject.
Robin’s specialisation has been in synthetic aspects of monosaccharide chemistry which have led into various other organic chemical topics, notably several on the boundaries of sugar organic chemistry and medicinal chemistry. His students and coworkers have make several notable contributions to the chemistry of antibiotics, prostaglandins, pheromones, insecticides and other bioactive compounds by utilising novel sugar reactions several of which were discovered in our laboratory. In particular, they encountered useful and novel free radical reactions, and simple and efficient means of converting specific unsaturated sugar derivatives directly to cyclohexane compounds. For many years they have been involved in developing other sugars which contain double bonds as suitable precursors for the synthesis of unsaturated glycosides which serve as starting material for a myriad of non-sugar products.