TRIBUTES have been paid after the death last week of a leading scientist whose talents took him from Lancashire to Cambridge University.

Brian Hartley, born in Rawtenstall in 1926, was best known as a biochemist at the famous university, where his research took him to the very top of his profession, from earning a PhD to joining the Royal Society.

Along the way, Mr Hartley had a huge influence on generations of scientists who learned their craft under his tutelage and who have described him as "truly brilliant and inspirational."

Brother Gordon, 90, said: "Since he died, we've had messages coming from all across the scientific community because he was regarded as being a very great man in that."

One such message has come from former student and later Nobel Prize winning scientist Sir Gregory Winter.

He said: "I remember my time as Brian’s PhD student with great affection, although he was a somewhat daunting figure.

"He fizzed with ideas, and would gesticulate ferociously with his pipe, expounding his latest brainwave, or arguing science with César Milstein in the corridor."

Professor Hartley's journey began with on Bacup Road, Rawtenstall and with an education at Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School.

His powerful intellect was plain to see from a young age and he became the first of the school's pupils in its history to win a scholarship to Cambridge University, where he graduated with a degree in organic chemistry in 1947 and met his wife, Belfast-born Kathleen, who was to be the love of his life.

Following two years in the navy, the young Brian Hartley then returned to world of science, earning a PhD from the University of Leeds in 1952 and then going on to work at Cambridge and as head of the department of biochemistry at Imperial College London.

In 1971, Professor Hartley was awarded one of the highest honours the scientific community can bestow when he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society, the oldest scientific society in the world whose members having included Isaac Newton and Stephen Hawking, but whatever heights he reached he always his proud Lancashire roots were always in evidence.

Sir Gregory said: "Brian expected his students to sort out things out for themselves, but if needed, he would offer the burst of intellectual energy, enthusiasm and criticism needed to get things back on track.

"His pithy advice ranged from the best problems to tackle, 'b***** interesting, lad, is it important?', to the thoroughness expected in science, 'it suggests isn’t good enough, dear boy, put a bloody stake through its heart'.

"He advised me to get on with experiments and not waste time reading the latest papers, as 'if it’s really important, someone will tell you', and on my personal life, when I told him I was to marry 'that’s my boy, well done, now you have the sex problem sorted you can really focus on your work!'"

Away from the lab, Professor Hartley's marriage to Kathleen brought them four children, Patrick, Chris, David and Victoria, and the pair would later become grandparents.

After retiring, he was able to devote more time to his other great passion, family history, which would lead him to form a firm friendship with Lancashire historian Peter Fishwick.

Mr Fishwick said: "I had the privilege of being able to stay with and then bring both Brian and his brother Gordon up to Lancashire and acting as guide round the valley."

He added: "We were able to meet a group of present-day BRGS students for a discussion of present and past BRGS life.

"Brian was kind enough to take my wife and I to supper at Trinity College and to introduce us to Sir Greg Winter."

Fortunately, brother Gordon has been able to continue this work.

He said: "He had a history published on Kindle, The Hartleys, which I then carried on as the Hartleys of Rossendale, Brian had traced it back all the way to the 14th century."

Kathleen sadly died in 2013, while daughter Victoria who was disabled from birth also died four years ago.

Professor Hartley died peacefully at home on May 3, aged 95. Funeral arrangements have yet to be finalised.