Marston history: Famous people

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Norman Heatley (1911–2004)

Norman George Heatley was a biochemist who played a vital part in the development of penicillin.

Heatley was born on 10 January 1911 at Woodbridge, Suffolk. His parents were Thomas George and Grace Alice Heatley, who had already lost two children by the time he was born. He is recorded in the 1911 census as a three-month-old baby, living with his parents and four servants in a large house at Marton Place in Woodbridge. His father worked from the house as a veterinary surgeon.

Heatley studied Natural Sciences at St John’s College, Cambridge, and graduated in 1933. He continued at Cambridge with doctoral research, gaining his Ph.D. in 1936.

He then moved to Oxford and became a Fellow of Lincoln College. He joined a team working under Howard Florey that also included Ernst Chain.

In 1944 Heatley married Mercy Bing, a medical graduate of Oxford, and in 1946 they moved to 12 Oxford Road, Old Marston, where Heatley was to remain for the rest of his life.

Heatley’s friend and colleague Eric Sidebottom recalls that when the now famous chef Raymond Blanc moved in next door to him in Marston, Heatley gave him an apple crumble he had made himself.

Sir Henry Harris said in 1998: “Without Fleming, no Chain or Florey; without Florey, no Heatley; without Heatley, no penicillin.”

Heatley died on 5 January 2004 at his Old Marston home. He was buried in a biodegradable coffin after a funeral service at St Nicholas’s Church, Marston, on 15 January. He was survived by his wife, Mercy, and four of their five children.


A blue plaque to Heatley was unveiled at 12 Oxford Road, Old Marston on 17 July 2010 by Dr Mercy Heatley, and an address was given by Dr Eric Sidebottom. The plaque reads:

Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board /
NORMAN HEATLEY  / D.M. / 1911–2004 /
Biochemist /
key member of the Oxford /
penicillin team 1939–43 /
lived here 1946–2004
Oxford Civic Society

Unveiling of plaque

Above: Dr Mercy Heatley unveils the plaque on 12 Oxford Road, Marston, watched by Dr Kate Tiller, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire and Chairman of the Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board

Below: Members of Heatley’s family, with the Revd Paul Rimmer, former Vicar of St Nicholas’s Church

Members of Heatley's family

Wikipedia: Norman Heatley

© Stephanie Jenkins

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