Sir John Meurig Thomas

Last updated: 22 November 2011

This week Adam is in conversation with one of the few people ever to have had a mineral named after them: distinguished Welsh chemist and educator Sir John Meurig Thomas.

Broadcast Tuesday 22nd November at 7pm

Listen to the latest programme online

Sir John Meurig Thomas (image courtesy of University of Delaware)

Sir John Meurig Thomas was born and raised in the Gwendraeth Valley. His father and his brother were both miners and Sir John tells Adam that he could easily have followed the same route. However, he discovered his passion for science as a pupil at Gwendraeth Grammar School and he was particularly inspired by his physics teacher, Irene Thomas. He studied chemistry at Swansea University and went on to research and teach at Bangor University, later becoming Professor of Chemistry at Aberystwyth.

Sir John's specific research interest is in catalysts, materials which encourage chemical reactions to take place, and he describes himself as a molecular architect. In 1978 he became Professor of Physical Chemistry at Cambridge and he was later invited to become Director of the Royal Institution in London, the oldest body in the world devoted to scientific research and education.

He's the author of thirty patents and over a thousand scientific papers and articles and a Founding Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales. In 1995 one of his former students named a newly-discovered mineral meurigite in his honour.

He talks to Adam about his early inspiration and influences and the rich education he gained from growing up in a mining area. He also talks about his scientific hero, Michael Faraday, the nineteenth century physicist and chemist who was one of Sir John's predecessors as Professor of Fullerian Chemistry at the Royal Institution.

Sir John Meurig Thomas is in Cardiff on 1st December to give a lecture organised by the Learned Society of Wales entitled 'The Genius of Michael Faraday'. The following evening he's in Swansea to talk about another of his heroes: 'William Grove - Wales Most Famous Scientist?'


Forthcoming lectures by John Meurig Thomas on Michael Faraday and William Grove

Video: Alan Macfarlane interviews Sir John Meurig Thomas

More on Meurigite

New website

iPlayer Radio logo

Listen online

A new look for BBC Radio online: listen live on your computer - and now on your smartphone.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.