Though he never attended a POMs meeting, as far as I recall, Rory was well-known to many of the POMs fraternity through his many and varied contributions to the field of Physical Organic Chemistry. These include, most famously, the introduction of simplified 3D-energy diagrams to analyze how reaction mechanisms may be altered by changes in the structures of the reactants. Their use was championed and exploited by Bill Jencks (1927-2007), an old friend, so much so that they became known as “More O’Ferrall-Jencks diagrams”.
Other research contributions included the measurement and interpretation of kinetic hydrogen isotope effects, quantitative studies of reactive intermediates, the chemistry of beta-lactam antibiotics, developments in free energy relationships, and interpretations of acid, base, metal ion and enzymatic catalysis. A testimony to the importance of his work was provided by the large number of invitations that Rory received to speak at conferences and universities around the world.
As well, Rory was a leader of the teaching of Chemistry in Ireland and Europe. He was the Head of Department at University College, Dublin, for four years, and was involved in the organization of specialist conferences and student workshops. He was also influential by virtue of the students that he taught and the graduate students and post-docs that he infused with his love of Organic Chemistry.
He was a gracious friend and a generous colleague, and he will be sadly missed.
(Thanks to those who told me of Rory’s passing, and to those who provided me with biographical information.)