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Deciding who discovered each element


The first open day at Leeds University
Norman Greenwood Scientist
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I don’t think it was the first open day ever, but it was certainly the first open day in the modern era; there hadn’t been one for half a century before at least. Most departments joined in. They had very good displays and in the end I think there was over 30,000 people on campus, coming of all ages. The medical school of course was important; throat swabs and things like that. The physics students were going... the physics department was showing their experiments. We showed Mossbauer. We had experiments on samples from the moon, for example, and they could see what we were doing with that, which caused great interest. Colour chemistry, another department, was an obvious draw. The biological and zoological departments, engineering – the whole of the university, including I have to say the mathematics department who put on some very interesting displays. It was generally counted to be a great success, and I think they have held them annually since then. Certainly for several years this was so, and I have here to pay tribute particularly to the administrative staff of the university, particularly Jillian Rennie, who was the entertainments officer of the university. They gave us enormous support and put in hours in the evening preparing for these things and, of course, the technicians and technical support, secretarial support of the university came in on the Saturday... and that reminds me in passing, it’s amusing now to think that people came in especially on Saturdays. In Newcastle, and indeed in Nottingham, we just worked through. Occasionally I went home to carve the Christmas turkey or something like that but, in fact, one worked on Saturdays and often came in to take readings on a Sunday as well and that, I think, is something which has probably disappeared. I notice now when I go in after 21 years of retirement – and I go in most days to the university – if I have to go in the evening there aren’t many people still in there. It’s a different style of working, perhaps because of the computer control and instrumentation. It’s certainly different.

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: Leeds University, Jillian Rennie

Duration: 2 minutes, 42 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2011

Date story went live: 25 November 2011