Ronald George Wreyford Norrish

Ronald George Wreyford Norrish FRS[1] (9 November 1897 – 7 June 1978) was a British chemist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1967.[2][3][4]

Ronald George Wreyford Norrish
Born(1897-11-09)9 November 1897
Died7 June 1978(1978-06-07) (aged 80)
NationalityUnited Kingdom
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge (BA, PhD)
Known forNorrish reaction
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Cambridge
ThesisRadiation and chemical reactivity (1924)
Doctoral advisorEric Rideal[1]

Education and early life

Norrish was born in Cambridge and was educated at The Perse School and Emmanuel College, Cambridge.[5] He was a former student of Eric Rideal.[1]

Career and research

Norrish was a prisoner in World War I and later commented, with sadness, that many of his contemporaries and potential competitors at Cambridge had not survived the War. Military records show that 2nd Lieutenant Norrish of the Royal Artillery went missing (captured) in 21.3.18. Norrish rejoined Emmanuel College as a Research Fellow in 1925 and later became Head of the Department of Physical Chemistry at the University of Cambridge. For many years, the Department of Physical Chemistry occupied the left-hand side of the Lensfield Road building with the other (and separate) department of 'Chemistry' (which encompassed organic, theoretical and inorganic chemistry) led by (Lord) Alexander R. Todd being accessed by turning right at the main entrance. Both departments had separate administrative, technical and academic personnel until they merged to form one chemistry department under John Meurig Thomas in the early 1980s. Norrish researched photochemistry using continuous light sources (including after the war, searchlights).

Awards and honours

Norrish was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1936.[1] As a result of the development of flash photolysis, Norrish was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1967 along with Manfred Eigen and George Porter[6] for their study of extremely fast chemical reactions.[5] One of his accomplishments is the development of the Norrish reaction.

At Cambridge, Norrish supervised Rosalind Franklin, future DNA researcher and colleague of James Watson and Francis Crick, and experienced some conflict with her.[7]


  1. Dainton, F.; Thrush, B. A. (1981). "Ronald George Wreyford Norrish. 9 November 1897-7 June 1978". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 27: 379–424. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1981.0016. ISSN 0080-4606.
  2. Norrish's Nobel Foundation biography
  3. Norrish's Nobel Lecture Some Fast Reactions in Gases Studied by Flash Photolysis and Kinetic Spectroscopy
  4. List of publications from Microsoft Academic
  5. "Ronald George Wreyford Norrish (1897 – 1978)". Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Retrieved January 25, 2012.
  6. Fleming, G. R.; Phillips, D. (2004). "George Porter KT OM, Lord Porter of Luddenham. 6 December 1920 - 31 August 2002: Elected F.R.S. 1960". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 50: 257–283. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2004.0017. ISSN 0080-4606.
  7. Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA. New York: HarperCollins, 2002. ISBN 0-06-018407-8, p. 72
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