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Work on inert gases


A superb chief technician: Jim Smith
Norman Greenwood Scientist
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So they had a fluorine facility, and they had a chief technician called Jim Smith who was an absolute marvel. Now I can illustrate that by a very simple story. He met me when we came to the lab and he said, ‘Well sir, welcome to Newcastle. Is there any way I could help?’ And I said, ‘Well, Jim, I’ve heard that you’re an excellent chief technician. I thought of doing some work on iodine pentafluoride and I know that there’s a fluorine cell around here. Do you think some time, you know, along with your other things, we could get some iodine pentafluoride?’ And he said, ‘Yes, sir, I’ll work on it’. That was day one. Nine o’clock on the morning of day two, I came in, Jim knocked on the door – he was already in – came in with a 500 ml flask of this heavy liquid – a beautiful, colourless liquid – and he said, ‘Here you are sir’. And I said, ‘What’s that?’ He said, ‘That’s the iodine pentafluoride you wanted’. And I said, ‘But you can’t buy it. Did you have some in stock?’ He said, ‘No I made it last night for you, you said you wanted it’. And he was brilliant. And when we expanded and got other technicians, he was very helpful in leading them in the fields that we would need help in.

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: Newcastle University, Jim Smith

Duration: 1 minute, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2011

Date story went live: 25 November 2011