S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Rimington, Claude (biochemistry, veterinary science)

Born: 1902, London, England.
Died: August 1993, Askeröy, Norway.

Claude Rimington combined a life-long interest in biology and chemistry by studying and graduating in the newly emerging discipline of biochemistry, inter alia at Cambridge under Hopkins. He then moved to Leeds, studying wool chemistry. As a student he visited Denmark and Norway where he met his future wife. Following a serious outbreak of geeldikkop in sheep in South Africa in the late nineteen-twenties he was awarded an Empire Marketing Board Fellowship to study the disease and relocated to the Onderstepoort Veterinary laboratory around 1930.

Brilliant research by Rimington, in collaboration with J.I. Quin* and others, led to the identification of phylloerythrin, a photodynamic porphyrin derived from the degradation of chlorophyll by micro-organisms in the gut, as the photodynamic agent causing geeldikkop. This work was published in two papers by Rimington and Quin in the Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Science... in 1931 and 1933, and in two further papers in the South African Journal of Science in 1933. Two further papers by Rimington alone in the same volume of the latter journal dealt with his chemical investigations of various local poisonous plants. Subsequently he isolated the toxic principle (icterogenin) from plants causing photosensitisation in livestock. This work, with three further papers on the chemical constitution of various plants, was published in the South African Journal of Science in 1935. He also studied porphyria in cattle.

In 1937 Rimington returned to England and worked at the National Institute for Medical Research until 1945. He was then appointed to the Chair in chemical pathology at the University College of Medicine, but retained his interest in photo-sensitization for the rest of his life. In 1963/64 he still published articles on the chemistry of icterogenins in collaboration with Ondestepoort researchers. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.

Rimington was a distinguished linguist, able to converse in French, German, Danish, Norwegian and Afrikaans, and a respected author and poet. Summers were usually spent in Norway, his adopted country, and when he returned to England on 1 September 1939 on his own, the outbreak of World War II resulted in his separation from his family for 6 years. After retiring he moved to Norway permanently, worked for many years at the Norwegian Cancer Hospital and was knighted by King Olaf.

List of sources:
Author and Subject Index to the Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Science and Animal Industry (1933-1950) and the Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research (1951-1968). Pretoria: Department of Agriculture, June 1969.

Brown, J.M.M. Advances in "Geeldikkop" (Tribulosis ovis) research. 1. The history of "Geeldikkop" research. Journal of the South African Veterinary Medical Association, 1959, Vol. 30(2), pp. 97-111.

Goldberg, A. Memorial Address: Professor Claude Rimington FRS. The University Church of Christ the King, London, 1994.

Interview with Greta Rimington (daughter) by Arno Flåoyen on 04/11/1998.

South African Journal of Science, 1933 and 1935, Vol. 30 and 32: Papers by Rimington.

Compiled by: D.W. Verwoerd