Ronald George Wreyford Norrish

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Wreyford, Ronald George Norrish was a British chemist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1967 for his research into ultrafast chemical reactions. Along with George Porter and Mafred Eigen, he was a co-recipient of the award. Norrish worked on the invention of “flash photolysis” and kinetic spectroscopy for the exploration and observation of very fast reactions with his former student George Porter from 1949 to 1965. When Norrish developed the most astounding modification to Draper’s law, his contribution to chemistry became substantial and he received worldwide fame. The quantity of dynamic rate of photochemical change, according to John Draper, is exactly proportional to the product of light intensity and time. Norrish, on the other hand, demonstrated that it is proportional to the square root of light intensity. Norrish was a man who exuded boundless vitality. He enjoyed meeting people from other countries and walks of life, as well as traveling to different parts of the globe.

Childhood and Adolescence

Norrish was born on November 9, 1897, in Cambridge, to Herbert and Amy Norrish. His father migrated to Cambridge to start his pharmacy after growing up in Crediton, Devonshire.
He attended a local boarding school for his early education before winning a scholarship at the Perse Grammar School in 1910.

He received a scholarship through an admission examination in 1915 and enrolled in Emmanuel College, Cambridge, to study Natural Sciences.
The Royal Field Artillery assigned Norrish to military duty in 1916 for service in France during World War I.
In 1918, German forces kidnapped him and sent him to Germany, where he remained for the rest of the war.

In 1919, he was repatriated to Cambridge. He continued with his Emmanuel College study. Despite this little interruption in his studies, he was able to earn a double first in Natural Sciences. After 1925, he became a research fellow there.

The Career of Ronald

Norrish was inspired by Eric Redeal, with whom he began his first photochemistry research project.
He was hired as a lecturer in the University of Cambridge’s department of physical chemistry in 1930. He was raised to the rank of professor in 1937.
He retired from Cambridge University as a Professor Emeritus in 1965.

Ronald’s Major Projects

Norrish had the opportunity to work with some exceptionally insightful students at Cambridge University, with whom he conducted considerable research in the fields of photochemistry and reaction kinetics, including combustion and polymerization.

Unfortunately, when the Second World War broke out in 1940, his studies came to a standstill. During that time, he continued to oversee the department and teach. He was collaborating with government groups and actively working on his research ideas.

After World War II ended in 1945, he resumed his research on transients in short-lived chemical processes.
From 1949 through 1965, Norrish worked on “Flash Photolysis” and “Kinetic Spectroscopy,” the most effective methods for investigating all parts of a chemical reaction, alongside his student George Porter (who is now a professor).

His other research interests included the mechanisms of chain reactions, such as combustion and the production of polymers.
He was a gifted researcher who always provided a thorough theoretical explanation for his findings.

The ‘Norwegian Reaction’ was one of his main achievements.
He continued to serve as an industry consultant and with individual pupils after retiring in 1965.

Achievements & Awards

In 1936, Norrish was named a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS).
In 1967, he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with George Porter and Manfred Eigen for their research on quick chemical reactions for their discovery of Flash Photolysis.

He also received the Raphael Meldola Medal (1926), the Davy Medal (1958), the Bernard Lewis Gold Medal (1964), and the IET Faraday Medal (1965).

He was a member of the Royal Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Polish Chemical Society, the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and the New York Academy of Sciences, among others.

Personal History and Legacy

Norrish married Annie Smith, a lecturer at Cardiff’s University of Wales, in 1926. They are the proud parents of two daughters and four grandchildren.
Norrish died in Cambridge on June 7, 1978, at the age of 81.

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