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Establishing atomic weights


My role in IUPAC
Norman Greenwood Scientist
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[Q] Well, it’s interesting, you’ve obviously got a great… your first formative years at Nottingham, but what was going on outside Nottingham?

That I was involved in?

[Q] Yes, absolutely.

Yes. Well, I think the first is that with the growing number of publications which were coming out, I obviously became known outside Nottingham and even outside the UK. I was active in attending conferences and in this general period, and we’re now talking the back end of the mid to late 50s, several things happened which I think are important. The first one was that there is an organisation called IUPAC, the International Union of Pure And Applied Chemistry which was formed as a non-governmental organisation of chemists to do several things to have a uniform nomenclature, so chemists in all languages around the world were speaking the same language, meaning the same thing, also deciding on the units, also deciding on best values for things if there were constants of nature and so forth, and applications in applied chemistry, analytical chemistry, medicinal chemistry and so forth.

Now the area that I became involved in obviously was inorganic chemistry and the Commission… I should also say that the actual work of the IUPAC was done in Commissions which were constituted of experts who could contribute to a particular task or problem. And then they reported to Bureau and Bureau had an Executive Council. But I was involved first in the inorganic area in the atomic weights.

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.

Listeners: Brian Johnson

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.

Tags: Nottingham University, 1950s, IUPAC, International Union of Pure And Applied Chemistry

Duration: 2 minutes, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2011

Date story went live: 25 November 2011