History of the Theory Sector of the Chemistry Department
Members of the Theoretical Sector have been at the forefront of
discoveries in Theoretical Chemistry since the inception of the
subject around 1930. We will confine our history to some of the
people who have worked in the Sector.
Professor Sir John Lennard-Jones (FRS), one of the founding fathers
of molecular orbital theory, was appointed as the John Humphrey
Plummer Professor of Theoretical Chemistry in 1933. Our library of
PhD theses commences with two (non PhD) volumes (1933, 1934) by C A
Coulson (FRS). One of these on 'Some problems in Molecular
Structure' acknowledges the 'kindness and interest of L-J'. An early
visitor to the Sector was W G Penney (FRS). We also have the thesis
(1937) of S F Boys (FRS), who was also a student of L-J, on 'Optical
Rotation'. Boys was appointed in 1947 to a University Lectureship in
the Department, where he remained until his death in 1972. Boys was
a pioneer in recognizing the importance of computation in theoretical
After the war, J A Pople (FRS, Nobel Laureate 1998) was a student of
L-J, completing his thesis in 1950. Pople became a University
Lecturer in the Mathematics Department. Other students included G G
Hall, A C Hurley and J S Griffith.
Professor Sir John Lennard-Jones
L-J left Cambridge in 1953 (he died in 1954), and was succeeded by H
Christopher Longuet-Higgins (FRS). During the time of HCL-H, L E
Orgel, J N Murrell (FRS), A Carrington (FRS), A D Maclachlan (FRS)
and A J Stone were appointed as Lecturers. The Department had many
students and visitors in the 1950s and 1960s, including R K Nesbet, R
G Parr, B J Alder, P Schofield, I Shavitt, I M Mills (FRS) C C J
Roothaan, M S Child (FRS) and others, all of whom are well known for
their contributions to theoretical and computational chemistry.
There were also notable experimental contributions by sector members
working with Alan Carrington.
Professor Christopher Longuet-Higgins
A David Buckingham (FRS) succeeded HCL-H in 1969. His appointments
included R Grice, N C Handy (FRS), N C Pyper, P A Madden (FRS), D C
Clary (FRS), Peter Gill, and R D Amos. Ruth Lynden-Bell worked in the Sector for
many years. Many students and visitors of this period now occupy
senior academic positions throughout the UK.
Professor A. David Buckingham
ADB retired in 1997 and
was succeeded by Jean-Pierre Hansen (IUF). JPH appointed Michiel Sprik,
and Ali Alavi.
Professor Jean-Pierre Hansen