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Doing research as well as teaching students


The astounding rate of advance in chemistry
Norman Greenwood Scientist
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I also brought to the audiences’ – it was a general audience – to their attention the rate of advance of chemistry which was doubling; the known chemistry was doubling, I think, about every 13 years at that stage. In other words, everything that was known from Adam and Eve in chemistry up till 1961 would be approximately doubled in the next 13 years. How do you cope with this at a university? And to illustrate this point, I brought the current volumes of chemical abstracts, which was one year’s, tens of thousands of journals, publishing hundreds of thousands of papers. How do chemists keep up with this, the transfer of knowledge? All of this was part of the thoughts that I was working on in the inaugural lecture. And, again, I was emphasising the point that in universities you must be prepared... preparing students for things which are changing; it’s not a static world, it will be changing all the time.

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: 1961

Duration: 1 minute, 14 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2011

Date story went live: 25 November 2011