Malcolm Bernard Huglin

International research chemist who played useful roles in Soviet Russia and the Mossad


The eminent academic chemist Malcolm Bernard Huglin, who has died aged 88, was a strongly committed Zionist who undertook research at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot in 1957 before returning to the UK to work at the Atomic Energy Authority at Capenhurst in Chester.

At the time it was thought that his activities in this field were useful to both the British authorities in their dealings with the Russians and also the Mossad — as an eminent lecturer at the Institute, he had many Arab students. I remember him telling me of his dealings with Iraqis and Iranians and about those who had been in the Egyptian military. He received as much detailed information from them regarding their armed forces as he could.

He then furthered his academic research at Liverpool University before settling at Salford University, where he was eventually awarded a much-belated professorship. His academic prowess was renowned internationally and he was invited to speak at many prestigious institutions in such countries as Australia and Indonesia, where he spoke effortlessly for seven hours, and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

His oratorical expertise was legendary and anyone who heard him would never forget his incisive wit, often completely off the wall. He could well have been a stand-up comic or script writer. He was fluent in French and Hebrew and could converse in many other languages.

Born in Liverpool in 1931 to Dave and Rose Huglin, he was initially educated at Fairfield, then evacuated to Prestatyn during the war where he studied at Rhyl High School. After the war, he attended Quarry Bank Grammar School in Liverpool. Subsequently, he studied chemistry at Liverpool University, where he gained his BSc and PhD degrees.

Huglin’s early days were involved as a madrich (educator) in Habonim and once he nearly got expelled from Quarry Bank for writing a vitriolic article against the British government during the time of the Mandate. In it, he condemned the treatment of the Jews in Israel by the British post-war Labour government of 1945–1951, even going so far as to compare British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin (whose tenure saw the end of the Mandate of Palestine and the creation of the State of Israel) to the pre-war Germans. The head called him in to inform him that they couldn’t continue to print that kind of comment, to which he responded by dressing like David Ben-Gurion for the school photo, when the rest of the class was in school uniform.

Huglin returned from his research at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot to work with the Atomic Energy Authority in Capenhurst. Before that, he had been photographed in East Berlin, where he said he had been asked to find out as much as he could from his Russian counterparts regarding their nuclear programme.

He married Shirley Samuels in 1976 and they became an inseparable couple until the time of her death nine years ago. He was a doting, caring husband who looked after his parents-in law in a most respectful and dignified way. Although not blessed with children of their own, he adored playing and being in the company of the children of others.

After an unfortunate accident last year, he lived in Stapely Care where he was adored by the staff and residents, and appreciated the love he received from his carer Warren Blumenow. He was a modest man who never mentioned his immense talents or achievements and left a smile on everyone’s face. He passed away very peacefully and his funeral was broadcast via Zoom to more than 100 people.

He is survived by his sister Norma Caplan, brother Victor, sister-in law Linda, nieces, nephews and extended family and friends.


Malcom Bernard Huglin: born May 4, 1931. Died April 18, 2020

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