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Professor Sir John Meurig Thomas

Professor Sir John Meurig Thomas

Honorary Visiting Professor

School of Chemistry


John Meurig Thomas, FRS, FREng, FRSE, was formerly Head of Physical Chemistry, University of Cambridge, formerly Director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain and from 1993-2002 Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge. Since 2002, he has been an Honorary Professor of solid-state chemistry at the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, Cambridge.

His early work as a solid state chemist was concerned with the characterization and chemical consequences of dislocations and other structural defects in molecular crystals, certain minerals and layered solids. Over 50 years ago, he was one of the first to exploit and adapt electron microscopy as an indispensable chemical tool, of which he has since made imaginative use. He also used a variety of photophysical and photochemical techniques to determine the nature of traps for singlet and triplet excitons and charge carriers in organic molecular solids. In the early 1980s he transformed the study, characterization and discovery of new zeolitic solids; and, from the mid-1990s, with his combined, simultaneous use of X-ray absorption and X-ray diffraction, coupled with GC/MS/FTIR, he achieved uniquely revealing, in situ, insights into the mode of operation of his molecularly designed heterogeneous catalysts. His approach to active-site engineering recently has led to the design of numerous nanoporous single-site catalysts, where the advantages of both homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis are unified. Early work of his in geochemistry was recognised when a new mineral, meurigite, was named in his honour in 1995. Author of ca. 1100 original articles (over 50 of them in Nature) and a keen populariser of scientific culture, for which, along with his services to chemistry, he was knighted in 1991.