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Geoffrey Wilkinson

Geoffrey WilkinsonBorn: 14-Jul-1921
Birthplace: Springside, Yorkshire, England
Died: 26-Sep-1996
Location of death: London, England
Cause of death: Heart Failure

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Chemist

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Organometallic "sandwich" compounds

In 1944, working with the Tube Alloys program (the UK's war-time atomic research program), British chemist Geoffrey Wilkinson determined the "double-humped" curve for calculating fission product yields from the slow fission of a specific uranium as a function of mass number. In 1952, he detailed the "sandwich" molecular structure of biscyclopentadienyl iron, now called ferrocene, which launched the new field of metallocene chemistry. In 1966 he developed what is now known as Wilkinson's Catalyst, a rhodium metal complex with three large phosphine ligands linked to the metal center that acts as a chemical catalyst for the hydrogenation of alkenes. He won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1973 for his work with ferrocene, sharing the honor and honorarium with Ernst Otto Fischer, who unraveled the "sandwich" molecular scheme in his independent studies in Germany.

Father: Harold Wilkinson ("Harry", house painter)
Mother: Ruth Crowther (weaver)
Brother: John Wilkinson
Wife: Lise Sølver (physiologist, m. 1952, two daughters)
Daughter: Anne
Daughter: Pernille

    High School: Todmorden High School, Todmorden, Yorkshire, England (1939)
    University: BS Chemistry, Imperial College of Science and Technology (1941)
    Scholar: Chemistry, Imperial College of Science and Technology (1941-43)
    Scholar: Atomic Energy Project, Université de Montréal (1943-44)
    Scholar: Atomic Energy Project, Chalk River Laboratories, Ottawa, Canada (1944-46)
    Scholar: Nuclear Chemistry, University of California at Berkeley (1946-50)
    Scholar: Nuclear Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1950-51)
    Teacher: Chemistry, Harvard University (1951-55)
    Scholar: Chemistry, University of Copenhagen (1955-56)
    Professor: Imperial College of Science and Technology (1956-88)

    Guggenheim Fellowship 1954-55
    ACS Award in Inorganic Chemistry 1965
    Antoine Lavoisier Medal 1968
    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1973 (with Ernst Otto Fischer)
    Knight of the British Empire 1976
    Royal Medal 1981
    RSC Longstaff Prize 1987
    SCI Messel Medal 1990
    Sigurd Tovborg Jensen Award 1992
    Davy Medal 1996
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences Foreign Member, 1970
    American Chemical Society Foreign Member, 1976
    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 1946-50
    National Academy of Sciences Foreign Associate, 1975
    Royal Danish Academy of Sciences Foreign Member, 1968
    Royal Society 1965
    Heart Attack 26-Sep-1996 (fatal)
    English Ancestry

Author of books:
Basic Inorganic Chemistry (1955, textbook, with F. Albert Cotton)
Advanced Inorganic Chemistry (1962, textbook, with F. Albert Cotton)
Chemistry: An Investigative Approach (1970, textbook, with F. Albert Cotton)
Comprehensive Coordination Chemistry: The Synthesis, Reactions, Properties & Applications of Coordination Compounds (1987, chemistry; seven volumes)


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