The Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson Lecture
The Department of Chemistry has launched its annual Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson Lecture, named in honour of Professor Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson FRS – a notable English chemist whose academic and subsequent professional career with Imperial spanned six decades. Through this high-profile lecture series, each year, distinguished speakers will discuss cutting-edge developments in the field of chemistry.
Over the course of his impressive career, Professor Wilkinson made many contributions to numerous areas of chemistry, including pioneering inorganic chemistry and homogenous transition metal catalysis. In 1973, he was named joint recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in organometallic chemistry. In 1976, he was recognised with a knighthood.
Professor Wilkinson enrolled as an undergraduate student at Imperial in 1939, and then continued on to complete his PhD in 1943. After a stint overseas, he returned to Imperial in 1956 as a Professor of Chemistry, where he held his chair for thirty-two years with great distinction. In 1988, he became Professor Emeritus, but maintained a small research group after his retirement.
He was the first incumbent of the Sir Edward Frankland BP Chair of Inorganic Chemistry, which was created and endowed by BP following his Nobel Prize award. This highlighted the impact of his work not only on the field of organometallic chemistry, but also the industrial application of his new catalysts, notably the eponymous Rh catalyst, which is still used industrially.
On 9 December 2022, Professor John Hartwig, Henry Rapoport Chair in Organic Chemistry at the University of California Berkeley, delivered the inaugural Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson Lecture. You can watch Professor Hartwig’s Catalysing Organic Synthesis lecture below.
It is with thanks to the Wilkinson Charitable Foundation that the College can proudly celebrate the impressive legacy of Professor Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson and continue to inspire the next generation of great minds.
Catalyzing Organic Synthesis (2022)
Professor Hartwig’s research focuses on the discovery and understanding of new reactions for organic synthesis catalyzed by transition metal complexes. From Prozac to perfume, sustainable plastics to solar energy, catalysis enables our current standard of living and controls our potential to progress sustainably. The reduced emissions of modern cars, the abundance of fresh food at our stores, the beginnings of green energy, and the new pharmaceuticals we use to treat disease are made possible by chemical reactions controlled by catalysts.
This lecture introduced the importance of catalysis overall, some major challenges in the field, and ways that our group is seeking to address these challenges. Examples of important catalysts used today, and examples of strategies to discover and develop new classes of catalysts for future applications will be presented.