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Cliff Addison's work on dinitrogen tetroxide AKA rocket fuel


All science aids the future
Norman Greenwood Scientist
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In science, one often does experiments for the excitement of finding something, curiosity if you like to use the word, but you don’t necessarily have a practical end in mind. I firmly believe that in universities one should be doing blue skies research, research that is there because you want to find out more fundamentally about things in nature. These things that are discovered may have applications; they are very important, but, by and large, the applications, in my view, are better done by people in industry who are geared to applying what is known. It is a symbiotic thing and, of course, there is no such thing as a pure research, an applied research. As George Porter once said, there is pure science… no, there is applied science and not-yet applied science.

But the idea, I think, is encapsulated best by Derek Birchall. He was a very distinguished research scientist in ICI and Derek said, ‘Because of research which we are doing today, the future is not what it was’. You don’t know how you are changing the future by the curiosity-led research that you’re doing today.

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: Imperial Chemical Industries, George Porter, Derek Birchall

Duration: 1 minute, 41 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2011

Date story went live: 25 November 2011