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The last of my work in hydrides at Nottingham


The 1969 moon landing cancels my lecture
Norman Greenwood Scientist
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The second time I went as a visiting professor was indeed to Perth, and that was in 1969, and I was scheduled to give a set of lectures. The head of the department was Noel Bayliss, who interestingly enough had been to the very same primary school that I’d been to in the early 1930s, and he was now a distinguished professor and head of the department in Perth. He’d put me up in one of the colleges there just on the edge of campus, George College, and a very pleasant place, but there was a problem. I had got there over the weekend for – and I was travelling alone on this occasion – for a start of lectures at nine o’clock on Monday morning. So I rang Noel at home because I think it was late... I got in late on Saturday... this was early on the Sunday morning. I said, ‘I’ve arrived but there is a problem’. And he said, ‘I know what’s coming’. And I said, ‘Well, nine o’clock is the time in Australia that Neil Armstrong is about to step on to the moon’. It was indeed the famous Apollo landing on the moon and the pictures were going to be beamed by television, which was a fantastic technological achievement to get television from the moon surface. But I said, ‘Obviously I’ve come to give lectures but what’s the status of the lecture?’ And he said, ‘Well, Norm, let’s put it this way, you’re welcome to give your lecture at nine o’clock, but I can guarantee that you’ll have an audience of zero’. So I was very pleased to hear this because I looked at the college television and saw that, and then went later in the day to see my mother, and it was in the end, of course, an excellent time that I spent in Perth.

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: Perth, Australia, 1969, 1930s, George College, Noel Bayliss, Neil Armstrong

Duration: 2 minutes, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2011

Date story went live: 25 November 2011