BSc Chemistry, PhD Mass Spectrometry. Class of 1957. Solid-State Chemist. Educator. Historian.
Sir John Meurig Thomas graduated with BSc in Chemistry from Swansea in 1954. He is a scientist, educator, university administrator, and historian of science primarily known for his work on heterogeneous catalysis, solid-state chemistry, and surface and materials science.
He is one of the founders of solid-state chemistry, starting with his work at the University of Wales, Bangor, in 1958 when he investigated the various ways in which dislocations inﬂuence the chemical, electronic and excitonic properties of a range of solids. He was one of the first to exploit electron microscopy as a chemical tool, especially to deduce active-site reactivities from the surface topography of many minerals and crystal hydrates.
At Aberystwyth (1969–1978) he elucidated the surface chemistry of diamond, clay minerals, metals and intercalates by pioneering UV and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. He also initiated the field of crystal engineering of organic molecules. As head of physical chemistry at Cambridge (1978–1986), he used magic-angle-spinning NMR and high-resolution electron microscopy to characterize and determine the structures of zeolites and other nanoporous catalysts. As Fullerian Professor and Director of the Royal Institution and of the Davy Faraday Research Laboratory, he utilized synchrotron radiation to characterize, in situ, new catalysts designed for green chemistry and clean technology.
He is the recipient of many national and international awards; and, for his contribution to geochemistry, the mineral meurigite was named in his honor He was Master of Peterhouse, University of Cambridge (1993–2002), and was knighted in 1991 "for services to chemistry and the popularisation of science".