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Sir John Meurig Thomas to Speak at Clarkson University March 29 & 30

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Sir John Meurig [MEHR-ig] Thomas will deliver the two lectures of Clarkson University's 17th annual Shipley Distinguished Lectureship, March 29 and 30.

Sir John Meurig ThomasKnighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1991 for “services to chemistry and the popularisation of science," Thomas was the director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain from 1986-1991.

He is currently honorary professor of materials science at the University of Cambridge; emeritus professor of chemistry of the Davy Faraday Research Laboratory, Royal Institution of Great Britain; honorary distinguished professor of materials chemistry at Cardiff University, Wales; honorary distinguished professor of chemistry and nanoscience at the University of York; advisory professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University; and advisory professor at the Catalysis Center at Hokkaido University.

No stranger to Clarkson University, Thomas delivered the second annual Shipley Lectureship in 1996, was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree in 2005, and spoke on the occasion of Prof. Egon Matijevic’s 50th anniversary at Clarkson in 2007. Thomas, who once spent a summer in Potsdam with his family, is the only individual invited twice to deliver the Shipley Lectures.

Thomas will lecture about "Sir Humphry Davy: Natural Philosopher, Poet, Man of Action” on Thursday, March 29, at 5:15 p.m. in Science Center Room 360. The presentation will be preceded by a 4:30 p.m. reception.

Honored by Napoleon and by the Czar of Russia, friend of Wordsworth, Coleridge and Lord Byron, Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829) was the discoverer of sodium, potassium and five other elements, inventor of the Davy miners’ lamp, and of the technique of cathodic protection.

He packed more action and achievement into his short life -- he was buried in Geneva not long after his 50th birthday-- than most scientists before or after him, even those who outlived him by several decades. Thomas’ talk will trace Davy’s path from his lowly origins in Cornwall to the pinnacles of international fame.

Thomas will then present “Unpredictability and Chance in Science and Technology" on Friday, March 30, at 11 a.m. in Bertrand H. Snell Hall Room 213.

In chemical science, as well as in most branches of natural philosophy, expert practitioners of their subject are often no better than members of the general public in foreseeing the scientific and technological future.

In Thomas’ presentation, the veracity of this statement will be illustrated (in terms that will also be intelligible to non-experts), and the reasons why this is so will be elaborated by reference to specific discoveries, advances and developments in chemistry, physics, medicine, molecular biology and astronomy.

The lectures are sponsored by the Shipley Family Foundation, with support from Clarkson's Center for Advanced Materials Processing (CAMP). The public is cordially invited to attend.

Sir John Thomas is known as the Catalyst Man, as he makes molecules that few thought possible, changing whole industries as a result. In recent years he has focused on designing “green” catalysts for clean technology and on developing ways of studying catalysts in situ. Also, the mineral Meurigite is named for him.

Thomas has made tremendous contributions to catalysis, solid-state chemistry and surface science, and has been recognized with honors that include the U.S. Presidential Green Challenge Award, the International Precious Metal Institute Distinguished Achievement Award, the Sir George Stokes Gold Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Davy Medal of the Royal Society, the Messel Gold Medal of the Society of Chemical Industry, the Willard Gibbs Gold Medal of the American Chemistry Society, and the Medal of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, among many others.

He holds more than 40 honorary fellowships in universities and colleges around the world, has given over 100 named lectureships worldwide, has held 21 short-term visiting professorships internationally, and is the recipient of 21 honorary doctoral degrees.

Thomas is the author of more than 1,000 research papers on the materials and surface chemistry of solids, and over 100 review articles on science, education and cultural issues. He is the co-author of 30 patents, two University texts on Heterogeneous Catalysis, and a biographical-philosophical study of Michael Faraday.

The Shipley Distinguished Lecture Series was initiated in 1994 through a generous gift from the late Lucia and Charles Shipley through the Shipley Family Foundation. Over that period distinguished speakers from around the world, including eight Nobel Laureates, have presented talks.

The purpose of the lectures is to promote scholarly achievements at Clarkson by providing the opportunity for idea exchange and active learning, as well as allowing undergraduate and graduate students to meet the most prestigious speakers from all over the world.

For more information about the lectures, please contact lectureship organizer Egon Matijevic, Victor K. LaMer Professor of Colloid and Surface Science, at 315-268-2392.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Sir John Meurig Thomas (Photo by John Holman).

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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