12 January 2015

The History of the UCL Chemistry Department: two departmental characters - Alexander Williamson and Kathleen Lonsdale

Organised by:

SCI's London Group in partnership with UCL's Chemical Physical Society

UCL, London

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In this lecture, the founding and growth of the UCL Chemistry Department will be briefly sketched, then against that background, the careers of two departmental characters will be described. Although a century apart, they are both as well known for their work outside the department as within it.

Alexander Williamson, the third Head of UCL's Chemistry Department (1824-1904), discovered the reaction which bears his name (Williamson ether synthesis), and is revered in Japan for his fundamental contribution in transforming the country from an enclosed feudal state into an open parliamentary democracy.

Kathleen Lonsdale (1903-1971) was a pioneer of crystallography and was also a Quaker who was prepared to go to jail during the second world war for her pacifist principles. Lonsdale was elected as one of the first two women Fellows of the Royal Society in 1945. She was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1956 and became a prison visitor.

Venue and Contact


Department of Chemistry
University College London
20 Gordon Street
London, WC1H 0AJ 
Please click here for a location map.

The lecture will be preceded by tea/coffee in the Nyholm room and followed by a Mixer in the Nyholm Room.

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Additional Info


Prof Alwyn Davies, UCL