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Jean Thomas's insightfulness


An inquorate Senate meeting
Norman Greenwood Scientist
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To give an example of her insightfulness, for example, the physical geometry of the laboratory and the offices in Leeds, was that I happened to have an extremely well placed office. It had been designed in the late 1920s, actually, by Sir Christopher Ingold, when he was briefly Professor in Leeds, before he went to University College. But around the corridor from that one had the main Parkinson Building and on the same floor as me, was the Council Chamber where Senate met, and I was a Senior Member of Senate, and so Senate was literally within walking distance, I was the nearest professor’s office.

And that had this interesting consequence that one of the businesses of Senate was to finally approve the examiner’s reports for all of the examinations in the university. So at examination periods, there were busy sessions of Senate. But because it was inappropriate for people in one faculty to comment on the standards of another faculty, and they weren’t technically competent to do that, usually only the faculty members whose students were being looked at, would come for that particular session.

Now all faculties, except one, were punctilious in sending their senior staff along. But I have to say that in this, as in some other ways, the Medical Faculty was unique. They were a law unto themselves for a variety of, sometimes good reasons, such as, I mean, they had clinical responsibilities and so forth, so one understood that, but insofar as they were university teachers as well, with university appointments, and had to attend Senate, in my view they should have attended.

But they were notoriously very difficult about this. And on one occasion, that I happen to remember, the meeting was held, and the business was about to start and the Registrar turned to the Vice-Chancellor and said, ‘Excuse me, Vice-Chancellor, I have to tell you that this meeting is inquorate’. There weren’t enough Senate members from heads of departments to have a quorate meeting; they were in fact one short.

And the Registrar advised the Vice-Chancellor that it would cause untold troubles if the meeting was inquorate, and people who had failed perhaps, had found this and had a good lawyer, there would be problems, we had to have a quorate meeting.

What to do? Send for Norm because it was known where my office was.

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, 1920s, University College London, Sir Christopher Ingold

Duration: 3 minutes, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2011

Date story went live: 25 November 2011