Winder, Frank (Francis Gerard Augustine) (1928–2007), biochemist, naturalist and mountaineer, was born 14 April 1928 in Dublin, one of four sons of Percy Winder (d. 1950), secretary of the Scottish Amicable Life Assurance Society and a freeman of the city of Dublin, and his second wife, Josephine (née Kavanagh) (d. 1976). He excelled academically at Belvedere College (1939–46); boyhood bicycle trips imbued him with a love of the outdoors, spurring his interest in natural history. Winder, an acolyte of Arthur Stelfox (qv) who recommended him to the English-born writer and entomologist Philip Perceval Graves (1876–1953), was commissioned in 1946 by the latter to visit the mountains of east Kerry, centred around Mangerton, and locate the mountain ringlet butterfly (Erebia epiphron). Winder instead found the dragonfly Cordulia aenea, previously unrecorded in Ireland. Awarded a £5 grant by the flora and fauna committee of the RIA to explore the flora of the Dunkerron mountains in Co. Kerry, he found the rare fern Polystichum lonchitis on Mullaghanattin. Climbing the flanks of Knocknagantee above Eagle's Lake in the Dunkerrons, he fell sixty feet onto a ledge; badly bruised, he recuperated for a few days in his tent and once fit again cycled to Killarney and returned to Dublin by train. He was reproached by Stelfox for climbing on the southern rather than the northern side of the range which was likely to yield more interesting Alpine flora. Years later, with Elizabeth Healy, Winder climbed an adjoining steep buttress and named the climb 'the Bastille'.
Deciding to improve his field work and life expectancy by learning how to rock climb properly, he joined the Irish Mountaineering Club (IMC) in December 1948. His first ascents in Dalkey quarry, Co. Dublin, are marked for posterity by the use of his name ('Winder's Crack' (1949), 'Winder's Slab' (1952) and 'Winder's Funnel' (1953)). He and his fellow pioneers gradually took advantage of unexplored climbing terrain around Glendalough and Lugalla, Co. Wicklow, accessible on weekend bicycle trips. Motorbikes allowed Kerry, Connemara and Donegal to be explored; new challenging climbs were discovered and 'put-up' using heavy hemp rope and hobnailed boots. Winder became a skilled climber and introduced the use of pitons into Ireland. Many of his first ascents during the 1950s and 1960s, with daring selection and execution of challenging lines, are regarded as classics of Irish climbing. His lifelong love of the poetry of W. B. Yeats (qv) led him to name a climb 'Byzantium', in the Bluestack mountains, Co. Donegal, having recited the poem during the first ascent. Winder also climbed in Britain, the Alps and Turkey, and in Yosemite and the Grand Tetons in the USA. He was twice president of the IMC (1966–7; 1997–8), although professional and family commitments allowed him less time for climbing from the late 1960s.
Winning an entrance scholarship to study chemistry and biology at UCD, Winder repeatedly topped his undergraduate B.Sc. class (graduating with first-class honours, 1949). He also won a Medical Research Council of Ireland (MRCI) postgraduate biochemistry scholarship and studied under Edward Joseph Conway (qv), who was pre-eminent in nascent Irish biochemistry. Awarded an M.Sc. by research (1950), he co-wrote with Conway a short account of his work, 'Conditions determining the excretion of pyruvic acid by fermenting yeast', in the Biochemical Journal. Winder served as auditor of the UCD biological society (1947–8), and treasurer (1948–9) and president (1949–50) of the UCD Students' Representative Council, spearheading their affiliation with the National Union of Students in the UK which enabled UCD students to access discounted travel in the UK and Europe. Elected president of the revived Irish Students Association (1950–51), he hosted its inaugural national conference in UCD, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin (1951). After working at Glaxo Research Laboratories, Buckinghamshire (1951–2), Winder was appointed a fellow of the MRCI in their TCD laboratories (1952–60), joining a team led by Vincent Barry (qv). They examined phosphorous metabolism in lower plants before focusing on the structure and metabolism of mycobacteria (a genus including the mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB) and mycobacterium leprae (leprosy)), especially the impact of trace metals on the enzymes required for nucleic acid synthesis in mycobacteria DNA and RNA. This work synthesised rimino-compounds (effective in treating TB and leprosy, and still used in the twenty-first century) while seeking methods to inhibit cell replication in pathogens: 'we discover how they grow, work and live, for the more we know the better we are able to kill them' (Ir. Press, 21 March 1955). In 1958 Winder was awarded a Council of Europe fellowship to examine anti-cancer compounds, and visited research centres in Britain and France to apprise himself of current techniques and approaches. He resigned his MRCI fellowship in 1959, though continued to direct research there part-time until 1965. Despite MRCI laboratory work being undertaken in stringent conditions with limited equipment, their pioneering work won a prestigious grant from the US Public Health Service (1964) to examine the structure and function of mycobacteria. Winder received grant-in-aid from the MRCI (1963–71), thereafter remaining involved with its laboratories.
Winder published in Nature, the Biochemical Journal, Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, the Irish Journal of Medical Science and elsewhere from the 1950s onwards, examining how isoniazid inhibits the synthesis of mycolic acid, and latterly how various enzymes effect DNA degradation in different mammals. From 1970 he investigated the structure and function of enzymes impacting the metabolism of the DNA of the mycobacterium smegmatis and the catalytic and peroxidatic activities of TB, examining the efficacy of treating leprosy with phenazines. His work seeking to identify and explain the specific mode of action of isoniazid on TB was his principal contribution to biochemistry. Recently rediscovered (originally synthesised in 1912 by postgraduate chemists in Prague and thus unpatentable), easily and cheaply isolated from coal tar, isoniazid (isonicotinic acid hydrazide) was a potent and easily administered TB treatment. Inhibiting the synthesis of mycolic acid (an essential constituent of the tubercle bacillus cell wall), when combined with streptomycin (available in Ireland from 1947, its use monitored by the MRCI) and the antibiotic PAS – collectively known as the 'triple therapy' – isoniazid transformed the treatment of TB from the mid 1950s. Winder's work furthered the understanding of TB from a biochemical perspective, exhibiting a rigorous commitment to scientific observation and experimentation combined with an inquisitive drive to further the bounds of research. With isoniazid-resistant strains of TB soon emerging, Winder sought to explain how resistance develops in mycobacteria – an ongoing issue in TB pathology. His foundational work on isoniazid continues to be cited in the twenty-first century.
Appointed a lecturer in veterinary biochemistry in the TCD department of biochemistry (1960), he was made a fellow of TCD (1962), a reader in biochemistry (1966–7), and associate professor of biochemistry (1967–75). He was conferred with an honorary Sc.D. (1972) by TCD for Published scientific papers, mainly on the biochemistry and physiology of mycobacteria, a collection that he enlivened by including his paper on rare Alpine plants found in the vicinity of Ben Bulben, 'included as a little light relief' (Winder, introduction). He was dean of graduate studies (1974–7), was appointed to a personal professorial chair of biochemistry (1975), co-opted a senior fellow (1985), and made director of the TCD Biological Laboratory (latterly the Biology Teaching Centre) (1985–93). A member of the TCD board (1985–96), he was respected for his independent mindedness, and after his retirement in 1996 attended TCD almost daily until close to his death.
Winder was a founder member of Tuairim, established in 1954 to bring a fresh perspective to the study of Irish society, foment reflective debate and encourage open-minded examination of political and socio-economic issues. Membership was limited to those aged 21 to 40, and, though overtly non-political, members were encouraged to participate in politics. Winder served as chairman (1956–60) and president (1960–62) and, aware of the preponderance of urban, and thus likely liberal, university graduates amongst its ranks, sought to expand the range of membership to help address a wider range of issues. Hoping Tuairim could engage younger citizens in debate about Ireland's future and stem their disengagement from contemporary politics, he valued its independence from party politics for allowing open-minded discussion and policy assessment irrespective of public opinion and vested interests, and argued that the growing interest in the group signified the ineffectiveness of political parties. He was perceptive of the changes underway in rural Ireland and worked with farming organisations to address changes in education and labour markets, hoping to stem emigration from rural areas.
From 1957 Winder agitated for a commission to investigate the Irish university system to address funding, possible amalgamation and rationalisation, and student numbers. He chaired a Tuairim study group that examined the proposed transfer of UCD from the city centre to Belfield, and that issued a report outlining in detail their opposition to the case for the move (University College Dublin and the future (1960)). Widely circulated and influential, the report argued that sufficient space could be found in the vicinity of Earlsfort Terrace by expansion into the College of Science and Harcourt Street train station, allowing an enlarged city-centre campus to contribute to the cultural and educational life of the city much better than one removed to the suburbs. Winder supported in principle the proposal in 1967 by Donogh O'Malley (qv) that TCD and UCD be merged into a federated University of Dublin, with the proviso that the distinct heritage and traditions of the former – especially freedom from ecclesiastical and political influence, independence of academic thought and freedom of expression – were protected by substantive change requiring a two-thirds majority in a unified governing body (and 40 per cent of each college's council).
He unsuccessfully sought the chairmanship of the NUI convocation in 1961, standing merely to offer plurality of choice, and losing to Dónall Ó Móráin (qv). A liberal catholic, Winder campaigned for acceptance of contraception within the catholic church, concerned that the hierarchy's lack of direct contact with and understanding of marriage inculcated a refusal to revise teaching, spurred as much by the fear of being seen to change its mind as by rigid theological belief. Winder publicly opposed the explicit ban by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid (qv) against catholics attending TCD.
Elected MRIA (1962), he served as an academy vice-president (1982–3; 1991–2; 1993–4) and council member (1967–71; 1983–5; 1990–91; 1992–3), representing the RIA on the editorial board of the Irish Naturalists' Journal (in which he published papers and notices) and serving on the Praeger Committee for Field Natural History (1975–83 and 2001–07). He was president of the Dublin Experimental Science Association (1966) and was elected to the RDS committee of sciences (1967). Active in the Wicklow Uplands Council and a council member (2000–04) of Keep Ireland Open and its representative on the Rural Development Forum (2000–03), he campaigned to afford citizens and hillwalkers a 'reasonable freedom to roam' (Ir. Times, 16 July 2003) with regard to private property rights. Winder died 30 December 2007 at St Luke's hospital, Dublin, and was cremated at Mount Jerome crematorium.
In 1962 he married in University Church, St Stephen's Green, Dublin, Jeanne Bulfin, daughter of Eamon and Nora Bulfin of Derrinlough House, Birr, Co. Offaly; they lived at 24 Oaklands Drive, Rathgar, Dublin, and had five children.