Sir John Meurig Thomas, University of Cambridge and Royal Institution, London, both UK, passed away on November 13, 2020. He was a leading British chemist in the fields of heterogeneous catalysis, solid-state chemistry, materials sciences, and surface chemistry. He also authored several books on the history of science.
John Meurig Thomas was born in Gwendraeth Valley, Carmarthenshire, Wales, UK, in 1932, studied at the University College of Wales, Swansea (later Swansea University), UK, and received his Ph.D. from Queen Mary College (later Queen Mary University of London), UK, in 1958. After working as Scientific Officer for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, UK, from 1957 to 1958, he joined the Department of Chemistry at the University College of North Wales (later Bangor University), UK, where he became Assistant Lecturer in 1958, Lecturer in 1959, Senior Lecturer in 1964, and Reader in 1965.
In 1969, Sir John became Professor and Head of Chemistry at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, UK. From 1978 to 1986, he was Head of the Department of Physical Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, UK, and a Professorial Fellow at King’s College, Cambridge. From 1986 to 1991, Sir John was Director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, London, UK, the holder of the Michael Faraday chair, and Director of the Davy Faraday Research Laboratory (DFRL).
After serving as Deputy Pro-Chancellor of the University of Wales, Cardiff, Wales, UK, from 1991 to 1994, Sir John returned to Cambridge and served as Master of Peterhouse, the oldest college of the university, from 1993 to 2002. From then on, he served as Honorary Professor of Materials Science at the University of Cambridge and Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at the Davy Faraday Research Laboratory of the Royal Institution. He was active in research at the Davy Faraday laboratory until 2006.
In 1991, John Meurig Thomas was awarded the Knight Bachelor (“Sir”) degree for “services to chemistry and the popularization of science”. The mineral meurigit is named after him. Among many other honors, he received the Royal Medal for Physical Sciences from the Royal Society in 2016, the Zewail/Elsevier Gold Medal and Prize for Molecular Science in 2015, the Blaise Pascal Medal for Materials Science of the European Academy of Sciences in 2014, the Kapitza Gold Medal from the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences in 2011, the Giulio Natta Gold Medal from the Società Chimica Italiana (SCI) in 2004, the Willard Gibbs Gold Medal of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in 1995, and the Davy Medal of the Royal Society, the Faraday Lectureship Prize of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 1989, and several honorary doctorates. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, UK, a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Science, the American Philosophical Society, the Swedish and Russian Academies of Sciences, and many other scientific associations.
- Architects of Structural Biology: Bragg, Perutz, Kendrew, Hodgkin
John Meurig Thomas
Oxford University Press, UK, 2020.
- The enduring relevance and academic fascination of catalysis,
John Meurig Thomas,
Nat. Catal. 2018, 1, 2–5.
- Reflections on the value of electron microscopy in the study of heterogeneous catalysts,
John Meurig Thomas,
Proc. R. Soc. A. 2017, 473, 20160714.
- Principles and Practice of Heterogeneous Catalysis,
John Meurig Thomas, W. John Thomas,
Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, Germany, 2015.
- Michael Faraday and The Royal Institution: The Genius of Man and Place,
John Meurig Thomas
CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, USA, 1991.
Also of Interest
- Interview: Telling Stories of Scientific Pioneers,
Vera Koester, Sir John Meurig Thomas
Sir John Meurig Thomas about his motivation to write about scientific pioneers, success, and the power and beauty of stories
- Royal Medal for Sir John Meurig Thomas,
Professor Kenneth Harris, UK,
ChemViews Mag. 2016.
Honoring important contributions “to the advancement of natural knowledge”
- Intellectual Freedom in Academic Scientific Research under Threat,
ChemViews Mag. 2013.
Sir John Meurig Thomas, UK, argues that scientific research motivated by intellectual curiosity is being restricted by funding bodies
- Sir John Meurig Thomas Receives Honorary Doctorate,
ChemViews Mag. 2012.
Sir John Meurig Thomas to be given Honorary Doctorate by St. Andrews University, Scotland, on its 600th anniversary