**Distinguished FIP Seminar Series** Unpredictability and Chance in Science & Technology

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

4:30pm | 203 Teer Building


Sir John Meurig Thomas , Professor, Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy

In chemical science as well as in most branches of natural philosophy, expert practitioners of their subject – judging by past experience – are often no better than members of the general public in foreseeing the scientific and technological future. The veracity of this statement will be illustrated (in terms that will also be intelligible to non-experts), and the reasons why this is so will be elaborated by reference to specific discoveries, advances and developments in chemistry, physics, medicine, molecular biology and astronomy.

John Meurig Thomas
taught and researched in the University of Wales (Bangor and Aberstwyth) for twenty years before he was invited to be Head of the Department of Physical Chemistry at the University of Cambridge in 1978.  In 1986 he followed Sir George Porter as the Director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, London, where he occupied the chair created for Michael Faraday.  In 1993 he became Master (Head) of the oldest college in Cambridge (Peterhouse); since retiring from the post (2002) he has been Honorary Professor of the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, Cambridge.

Renowned for his pioneering work in the chemical applications of electron microscopy, in materials chemistry and heterogeneous catalysis, he has been the recipient of numerous medals and honours including the Wilard Gibbs Gold Medal of the Amer. Chem. Soc., the  Stokes Gold Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Linus Pauling Gold Medal of Stanford University, the Davy Medal of the Royal Society and the Semenov Centenary Medal of the Russian Academy of Sciences.  He holds 20 honorary doctorates from universities in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and the US; and he is a Foreign Fellow of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Science and the Royal Academy of Spain as well as the Hugarian, Polish, Russian Academies and the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rome.  He broadcast the BBC Annual Radio Lecture (in Welsh) in 1978, and gave the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures  (on crystals), televised by the BBC in 1987.  Formerly the Chairman of CHEMRAWN (Chemical Research Applied to World Needs), 1988-92 and a Cabinet Office (UK) Government Advisor (1982-86), a Trustee of the Science Museum and Natural History Museum, London, he was knighted in 1991 by Queen Elizabeth for his services to chemistry and the popularisation of science.

The author of over 1000 scientific and popular articles, two university texts on heterogeneous catalysis, a biography of Michael Faraday (which has been translated to Japanese and Italia), and, with AH Zewail, recent monograph (2010) on 4D Electron Microscopy: Imaging in Space and Time.  He is the founding editor of the journals Catalysis Letters and Topics in Catalysis.  In recognition of his geochemical researches a new mineral, meurigite, was named in his honour in 1995 by the International Mineralogical Association.