Wilkinson, Geoffrey, 1921-1996

Alternative names
Birth 1921-07-14
Death 1996-09-26

Biographical notes:

Born in Springside, Yorkshire on 14 July 1921. Educated in the local council primary school, 1932 won a County Scholarship went to Todmorden Secondary School; 1939 awarded Royal Scholarship for study at Imperial College London, graduated 1941; PhD under supervision of H.V.A. Briscoe, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry, thesis title 'Some Physicochemical Observations on Hydrolysis in the Homogeneous Vapour Phase'; 1942 joined F.A. Paneth on nuclear energy project; 19 43 - 1946 worked in Canada; 1946 joined Glenn T. Seaborg's research group University of California at Berkeley, first non-American to be cleared by the US Atomic Energy Commission for work at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory; worked on nuclear taxonomy making new neutron deficient isotopes using the cyclotrons of the Radiation Laboratory. 1950 joined Massachusetts Institute of Technology investigating transition metal complexes such as carbonyls and olefin complexes; 1951 Assistant Professorship at Harvard; 1955 returned to England, worked with organic chemist R.B. Woodward, recognised unprecedented molecular 'sandwich structure' of the organometallic compound now known as ferrocene (bis-(cyclopentadienyl) iron, Cp2Fe); 1955 Wilkinson appointed chair of Inorganic Chemistry at Imperial College London, (only established chair in the United Kingdom at that time) worked on complexes of transition metals, the complex chemistry of ruthenium, rhodium and rhenium, in compounds of unsaturated hydrocarbons and with metal to hydrogen bonds, leading to work on homogeneous catalytic reactions such as hydrogenation and hydroformylation of olefins; published Advanced Inorganic Chemistry with F.A. Cotton, 1962; 1982 edited the nine-volume Comprehensive Organometallic Chemistry; elected FRS in 1965 (Royal Medal 1981, Davy Medal 1996); 1973 awarded Nobel Prize for Chemistry (with E.O. Fischer) 'for their pioneering work, performed independently, on the chemistry of the organometallic, so called sandwich compounds'; knighted for contributions to chemistry in 1976; died on 26 September 1996.

From the guide to the WILKINSON, Sir Geoffrey, 1921-1996, 1943-1999, (Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine)


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