Norman Greenwood (1925-2012) was born in Australia and graduated from Melbourne University before going to Cambridge. His wide-ranging research in inorganic and structural chemistry made major advances in the chemistry of boron hydrides and other main-group element compounds. He also pioneered the application of Mössbauer spectroscopy to problems in chemistry. He was a prolific writer and inspirational lecturer on chemical and educational themes, and held numerous visiting professorships throughout the world.
Now, part of the trip was to give a course of lectures as a visiting Professor in Wuhan, also to visit other parts of China, sometimes institutes, and sometimes, frankly, they wanted to show China to visitors, which is very understandable, they were proud of their country and rightly so.
And, as I’ll say very briefly, as we were on the Yangtze, we naturally wanted to go up the Yangtze, or down the Yangtze, through the Gorges. And so we flew with a guide, which was totally necessary. He was a professor in fact from the chemistry department. We flew to Chongqing which is the place, as you know, where Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek negotiated during the Chinese Civil War before Mao Tse-tung took over.
And we came to Chongqing, saw something of that town, and then went down to the Yangtze River, which had quite a different character in Chongqing from Wuhan hundreds of miles to the west... sorry to the east.
And the difference was this, that because it was the season when the snows were not melting, not so much water was flowing, so instead of being indescribably large it was just enormous. There were mudflats, which went for well over 100 metres from the shoreline, and they had plank walkways steeply going down to where the water still was, which was still a very broad river, where the riverboats were. So we walked down these planks on to the riverboat and then started, I think, it would be a three-day journey, back down the river to Wuhan through the Gorges.
And again many people have now seen that on television; the big difference was of course that our trip was before the new Great Dam had been put up, so that the level of the water was, I think, 60 or 70 metres higher [sic] than it is now because of the... as a result of the dam being put up.
Professor Brian FG Johnson FRS, FRSE, FRS Chem, FAcad Eu, FAS. Professor of Inorganic Chemistry University of Edinburgh 1991-1995, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry University of Cambridge 1995-2005, Master Fitzwilliam College Cambridge 1999-2005. Research interests include studies of transition metal carbonyls, organometallic chemistry, nano- particles and homogeneous catalysis. Professor Johnson is the author of over 1000 research articles and papers.
Yangtze river, China, Wuhan, Chongqing, Three Gorges Dam, Mao Tse-tung, Mao Zedong, Chiang Kai-shek, Sun Yat-sen