Soddy, Frederick, 1877-1956

Alternative names
Birth 1877-09-02
Death 1956-09-22

Biographical notes:

Physical chemist; Fellow of the Royal Society and Nobel prize winner; Professor of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry, Oxford, 1919-1936. Discoverer of isotopes.

From the description of Papers, 1913-1957. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 84011697

Chemist. University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, 1894-1895; Merton College, Oxford, 1896-1898; private research in Oxford, 1898-1899; Demonstrator, McGill University, Montreal and work with Rutherford on Atomic Disentegration Theory, 1900-1903; University College, London, work with Ramsay and lecture tour to Australia, 1903-1904; Lecturer in Physical Chemistry, Glasgow University, 1904-1914; Fellow of the Royal Society, 1910; Professor of Chemistry, Aberdeen University, 1914-1919; Dr. Lee's Professor of Chemistry, Oxford, 1919-1936; Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, 1921.

From the description of Papers, 1894-1958. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 155003309

Frederick Soddy (1877-1956) was a chemist who lectured at the University of Glasgow before the First World War, and won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1921.

Born in Eastbourne on 2 September 1877, he was the youngest son of Benjamin and Hannah Soddy. He was educated at private schools and then attended Eastbourne College (1892-94), University Colleg of Wales, Aberystwyth (1894-1895) and the University of Oxford, where he gained Postmastership at Merton College and graduated with first class honours in 1898.

Soddy worked as a research assistant at Oxford until 1900, when he then spent two years at McGill University in Canada, lecturing in Chemistry and working with Sir Ernest Rutherford on radioactivity, and then with Sir William Ramsay at University College, London. He moved to Glasgow in 1904 as a lecturer in Physical Chemistry and Radioactivity, and it was during his ten years at the University that he completed his most important research into the chemistry of radioactive elements.

Working with collaborators including the laboratory assistant Alexander Fleck (who later rose to become Chairman of ICI), Soddy developed the "Displacement Law" - that, "when an alpha or beta ray is emitted, the element moves to a different place in the periodic table." In 1913 he formulated the concept of "radio elements chemically non-seperable" which, at the suggestion of Dr Margaret Todd, a fellow guest at a dinner party in his father-in-law's house at 11 University Gardens, he named "isotopes".

Soddy left the University in 1914 to the Chair of Chemistry at the University of Aberdeen, and in 1919 became Dr Lee’s Professor of Physical and Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Oxford, a post that he held until his retirement in 1936.

During his career he achieved a number of honours. In 1910 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society, and as mentioned above in 1921 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of isotopes. He was the first English-born Chemist to receive this honour. In 1923 he was awarded the Cannizzaro Prize in Rome, and in 1936 he was awarded an Honorary LLD by the University of Aberdeen, and was also made a Foreign Member of the Swedish, Italian and Russian Academies of Science.

Soddy died in Brighton on 22 September 1956, aged 79. By his will, he established the Frederick Soddy Trust to provide grants to "groups studying the whole life of a community."

From the guide to the Papers of Frederick Soddy, 1877-1956, Chemist, lecturer in Physical Chemistry and Radioactivity and Nobel Prize winner, University of Glasgow, Scotland, 1908-1963, (Glasgow University Archive Services)


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  • Isotopes
  • Chemistry, Physical and theoretical
  • Radioactivity
  • Nobel prizes
  • academic teaching personnel,
  • Chemistry, Inorganic
  • Chemistry
  • Radioactivity--Research


  • Chemists


  • Glasgow (Scotland) (as recorded)