Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson was an English scientist and professor who, along with German chemist Ernst Otto Fischer, was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1973 for his pioneering work in metallocenes and other parts of organometallic chemistry. He discovered several new isotopes as a result of his research on the results of atomic fission reactions. He successfully inferred the structure of the newly synthesized substance dicyclopentadienyl iron (now known as ferrocene), demonstrating that it is made up of two carbon rings, each with five sides, bound on opposing sides of an iron atom, producing an organometallic molecule. He continued his study in this sector, synthesizing a variety of additional organometallic compounds, also known as’sandwich compounds.’ Wilkinson’s study of metal-to-hydrogen bonding, particularly the discovery of his homogeneous hydrogenation catalyst for alkenes, known as the Wilkinson’s Catalyst, which is made up of a rhodium metal complex with the metal center linked to three large phosphine ligands, has proven to be of great importance in the fields of organic and inorganic chemistry and plays a vital role in industrial applications. He worked at the ‘Atomic Energy Project’ in Canada and lectured at ‘Harvard University,’ ‘University of California at Berkeley,’ ‘Massachusetts Institute of Technology,’ and ‘Imperial College, London,’ among other institutions. He earned many prizes in addition to the Nobel Prize, including the ACS Award in Inorganic Chemistry (1965), the Royal Medal (1981), and the Davy Medal (1996). In 1965, he was named a “Fellow of the Royal Society,” and in 1976, he was knighted.
Childhood and Adolescence
He was born on July 14, 1921, as the eldest of three children to Harold Wilkinson and his wife Ruth Crowther in the village of Springside, near Todmorden in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
His grandparents and father, both master house painters and decorators, moved from Boroughbridge to Yorkshire around 1880. His mother worked at the local cotton mills as a weaver.
His eldest maternal uncle’s in-laws had a small chemical company that manufactured Epsom and Glauber’s salts for the pharmaceutical industry. He became interested in chemistry because of his uncle, whom he accompanied on multiple excursions to chemical plants.
He began his education in the local council elementary school and then transferred to the ‘Todmorden High School,’ a comprehensive school in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, after receiving a County Scholarship in 1932.
Despite its tiny size, the school had a remarkable academic record, producing two Nobel Laureates in a 25-year period. Wilkinson was educated by a physics teacher who also taught Sir John Cockroft, a well-known English physicist, although he never showed any interest in the topic.
In 1939, he received a Royal Scholarship to study at London’s ‘Imperial College,’ and graduated with a BS in Chemistry in 1941, during the height of the ‘Second World War.’ He was instructed to continue with some research work with Professor H.V.A. Briscoe as his supervisor because numerous strategically significant scientific research works were being done during the war.
Career of Geoffrey Wilkinson
In late 1942, when Professor Friedrich Paneth, an Austrian-born British scientist, was recruiting young chemists for the Atomic Energy Project, he joined him. He was sent to the Atomic Energy Project in Canada in January 1943, initially at the Université de Montréal in Montreal and later at the Chalk River Laboratories in Deep River, Renfrew County, Ontario. He worked on this project until 1946, which encompassed the Tube Alloys nuclear program and the UK’s wartime atomic research effort.
In 1946, he applied to the ‘University of California’, Berkley, and was admitted by Professor Glenn T. Seaborg, a well-known American chemist, where he remained a nuclear science scholar until 1950. He spent much of his time there researching on nuclear taxonomy. He created many deficient isotopes using a type of particle accelerator known as a cyclotron from the Radiation Laboratory. Wilkinson created more artificial isotopes than anyone else, according to Professor Seaborg, with roughly eighty nine.
He began working as a Research Associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1950. He concentrated his research efforts there on transition metal complexes of ligands such as olefins and carbon monoxide, which he had been interested in since his undergraduate days.
From September 1951 through December 1955, he worked as an Assistant Professor at Harvard University, where he had a nuclear background. He began his research on olefin compounds while simultaneously doing a few nuclear studies on protons’ excitation activities in cobalt.
His attention was piqued by a paper in early 1952 about a newly created chemical called dicyclopentadienyl iron (now known as ferrocene). He succeeded in deducing the structure of the synthesized substance, revealing that it is made up of two carbon rings, each with five sides, bonded on opposite sides of an iron atom to form an organometallic molecule. He went on to do more study in this area and synthesis a variety of additional organometallic compounds.
He had a nine-month sabbatical as a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow in Professor Jannik Bjerrum’s laboratory in Copenhagen.
In June 1955, he was appointed to the chair of Inorganic Chemistry at London’s ‘Imperial College,’ a position he held until January 1956 and for nearly three decades. He primarily focused his study on transition metal complexes, with a particular interest in the chemistry of rhenium, rhodium, and ruthenium, as well as compounds of unsaturated hydrocarbons. He was promoted to professor emeritus in 1988.
His research on metal-to-hydrogen bonding led to the development of chlorotris (triphenylphosphine) rhodium(I), a coordination molecule with the chemical formula RhCl(PPh3)3 (where Ph stands for phenyl), also known as Wilkinson’s Catalyst, a homogeneous hydrogenation catalyst for alkenes. It is made up of a rhodium metal complex with three massive phosphine ligands connected to the metal center.
In the lab built for him by the firm ‘Johnson Matthey,’ he continued to work as an emeritus professor at the ‘Imperial College’ in London.
‘Basic Inorganic Chemistry’ (1955), ‘Advanced Inorganic Chemistry’ (1962), and ‘Chemistry: An Investigative Approach’ (1965) were among the textbooks he co-wrote with his former PhD student F. Albert Cotton (1970). Wilkinson, Jon A. McCleverty, and Robert D. Gillard contributed to the first edition of ‘Comprehensive Coordination Chemistry: The Synthesis, Reactions, Properties, and Applications of Coordination Compounds’ published by Pergamon Press in 1987.
Achievements & Awards
In 1973, he and German chemist Ernst Otto Fischer shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
In 1980, the ‘University of Bath’ awarded him an honorary doctorate of science.
Wilkinson continued to be a member, a foreign member, and an associate of a number of important organizations. He was a Foreign Associate of the ‘National Academy of Sciences’ and a Foreign Member of the ‘Royal Danish Academy of Sciences’ (1968), ‘American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ (1970), and ‘American Chemical Society’ (1976). (1975).
Personal History and Legacy
In 1952, he married physiologist Lise Solver. Anne and Pernille, the couple’s two daughters, were born to them.
He died of a heart attack on September 26, 1996, in London, England, at the age of 75.
Estimated Net Worth
Geoffrey Wilkinson’s estimated net worth is $ USD 7 million, according to online sources (Wikipedia, Google Search, Yahoo Search). His primary sources of income are as a chemist, university teacher, and non-fiction writer. We don’t have enough information about Geoffrey Wilkinson’s cars or lifestyle. These details will be updated as soon as possible.
As a token of respect, the ‘Imperial College’ in London named a new hall of residence after him in October 2009.