John Meurig Thomas

John Meurig Thomas

John Meurig Thomas

Sir John Meurig Thomas obtained his initial degree from Swansea University (U.K.) and completed his doctorate at the University of London. He taught and researched at the University of Wales (Bangor and Aberstwyth) for twenty years before he was invited to be the head of the department of physical chemistry at the University of Cambridge in 1978. In 1986 he followed Sir George Porter as the director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, London, where he occupied the chair created for Michael Faraday. In 1993 he became master (head) of the oldest college in Cambridge (Peterhouse). Since retiring from the post in 2002 he has been honorary professor of the department of materials science and metallurgy at Cambridge.

Thomas is renowned for his pioneering work in the chemical applications of electron microscopy, in materials chemistry and heterogeneous catalysis. He has been the recipient of numerous medals and honors, including the Willard Gibbs Gold Medal of the American Chemical Society, the Stokes Gold Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Linus Pauling Gold Medal of Stanford University, the Davy Medal of the Royal Society, and the Semenov Centenary Medal of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He holds 20 honorary doctorates from universities in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and the United States of America.

Thomas is a foreign fellow of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Science and the Royal Academy of Spain, as well as the Hungarian, Polish, and Russian Academies and the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome. He broadcast the BBC Annual Radio Lecture (in Welsh) in 1978 and gave the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures (on crystals) televised by the BBC in 1987.

Formerly, Thomas was the chairman of CHEMRAWN (Chemical Research Applied to World Needs) between 1988 and 1992, and a cabinet office (U.K.) government advisor between 1982 and 1986. He is a trustee of the Science Museum and Natural History Museum in London and was knighted in 1991 by Queen Elizabeth for his services to chemistry and the popularization of science.

He is the author of over 1000 scientific and popular articles, two university texts on heterogeneous catalysis, a biography of Michael Faraday (which has been translated to Japanese and Italian), and with Professor Ahmed Zewail, a recent monograph (2010) on 4D Electron Microscopy: Imaging in Space and Time. Thomas is the founding editor of the journals Catalysis Letters and Topics in Catalysis.

In recognition of his geochemical research on a new mineral, it was named meurigite in his honor in 1995 by the International Mineralogical Association.