Drumm, Peter John (1897–1952), chemist, was born 24 October 1897 in Drumard, Co. Monaghan, son of John Drumm, RIC constable based in Dundrum, Co. Down, and Bridget Drumm (née Connolly). His elder brother was James Drumm (qv), a noted chemist and industrial technologist, who invented the Drumm battery. Peter entered UCD in 1915, where he studied chemistry with great distinction under Professor Hugh Ryan (qv) and graduated B.Sc. (1918). After receiving an M.Sc. (1919), he spent two years as a research chemist in the British Dyestuffs Corporation under Sir Robert Robinson. In 1922 he spent a period working in industrial chemistry for Fine Chemicals Ltd with his elder brother James, who had also studied under Ryan. In 1924 Drumm worked with Ryan on diphenyl ether (used as a herbicide), and in 1925 he returned to academic research when, as the holder of a state research scholarship, he joined the chemistry department at UCC. During 1926–9 he published articles together with Joseph Reilly (qv) on oils obtainable from Irish plants. He was awarded a Ph.D. (1928) and D.Sc. (1931).
In 1931 he was awarded a Rockefeller foundation scholarship for his researches – the first award of its kind made in Ireland for chemistry – and studied at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for medical research at Heidelberg, where he worked on biochemical problems under Professor Richard Kuhn. On the completion of a fruitful year of collaboration in researches that formed part of those that later gained Kuhn the Nobel prize in chemistry (1938), he returned to Cork (1932) as a lecturer in applied chemistry. An enthusiastic researcher, his interests turned more and more to biochemistry, and when in 1935 the question of establishing a department of biochemistry in Cork came under discussion, his name was immediately associated with the project. He was granted a year's leave of absence in 1936 to take up a position as assistant lecturer in medical chemistry at Edinburgh University, where he acquired first-hand experience of the organisation and teaching methods of a modern biochemical department. While at Edinburgh he also carried out research on vitamin C. On his return to Cork he had to wait almost ten years before UCC finally gave the go-ahead for a new department of biochemistry. He was appointed to the chair in 1946, where he could at last devote himself exclusively to his subject of interest. Despite the handicap of inadequate resources of space and equipment, he developed the department into a promising school. His reputation and personality attracted a group of enthusiastic young researchers.
He died suddenly in Cork 14 January 1952; he was described in an obituary as ‘impulsive, generous, helpful, quick-tempered, impatient of sham and humbug, and, above all else, deeply religious’ (Cork University Record, no. 24 (Easter 1952), 11).