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What should I do in the lab?


How I horrified a Cambridge head porter
Norman Greenwood Scientist
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It does remind me, speaking of royalty, however, that on 14th November 1948, I was returning from the laboratory, in time on this occasion, before 10.30 that is to say, and the gate was already shut, but it was opened by the head porter, and he doffed his bowler hat and said, 'Good evening, sir, it's a boy'. And so I said, 'What's a boy?' And he said, 'The young princess, sir, she's had a baby son'. 'Oh', I said, 'I didn't even know she was pregnant', and for a moment, a slight disrespect for... horror came over the chief porter's face, the head porter's face, and then he said, 'Yes indeed, sir, a boy'. So that was Prince Charles being born.

But, as I said, I think they are, withal, able to do first rate... well, science is really all I can judge, but the science that was being done at that time was top rate, and is obviously still the same.

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: 1948, Prince of Wales

Duration: 1 minute, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2011

Date story went live: 25 November 2011