Category Archives: scientists

Advances in the Chemistry of Disordered Solids: 13 September 2013

Pat JacobsThis post is about a symposium that took place on 13 September 2013. I haven’t been able to complete it until now, but thought it was still important to post!

The symposium was organised as a tribute to Professor Patrick Jacobs, who died on 31 March 2013. Patrick was so influential in solid state chemistry that Richard Catlow and myself felt that an occasion like this had to be organised. The speakers would represent a cross-section of those who worked with him, were influenced by him, or were taught by him. In addition we included a young researcher whose work is in the spirit of that of Patrick.

The following gave talks at the symposium:

Professor Sean Corish
Professor Richard Catlow
Professor Eugene Kotomin
Dr Rob Jackson
Professor Mike Gillan
Professor Alan Chadwick
Dr David Scanlon
Professor Mary Anne White.

As mentioned above, all of the speakers had been connected with Patrick in some way, ranging from having done postdoctoral research with him, to having been taught by him. There was a therefore a good mixture of science and of recollections of the man himself.

We were fortunate that Patrick’s oldest son, Richard Jacobs, was able to attend. He videoed the event, and the talks are all available on YouTube, as follows:

Meet and Greet
Sean Corish  
Rob Jackson  
Apologies for absence
Mike Gillan      
Alan Chadwick 
David Scanlon  
Mary Anne White
Thanks from Richard Jacobs
The symposium went very well, and was a fitting tribute to Patrick. It should be mentioned that nearly a year later, in July 2014, another symposium was held in honour of Patrick, as part of the Eurodim conference, and I mentioned this in a previous post about the conference. We are also in the process of publishing a special volume of the Proceedings of the Royal Society, also in Patrick’s honour.

Harry Greenwood and Keele’s Computational Chemistry past

Dr Harry Greenwood, former director of Keele’s Computer Centre, died just over 15 months ago, on 10 August 2013, aged 92. At the time this led me to think about Harry’s role in Computational Chemistry at Keele, that being the area he did his PhD research in. I started writing this post shortly after I learned of his death, but had to set it aside due to many other demands on my time. I have recently been inspired to complete it by my preparation of some new lectures on Quantum Chemistry, and particularly the development of a molecular orbital exercise for the students taking these lectures.

Harry was Director of Keele’s Computer Centre between 1967-1987. I arrived at Keele in 1986 as a member of Richard Catlow’s group, and so I briefly overlapped with Harry’s tenure. As a computational based group, we made considerable demands on the computing infrastructure at Keele, and we appreciated the help of Harry, and of his successor, Colin Silk, in those early years.

Harry did his PhD at King’s College London, with Charles Coulson in the area of Valence Theory, which Coulson made such an impact in. Amongst Coulson’s other students were Roy McWeeny, who was later an academic member of staff at Keele (more on him later), and Alan Lidiard, who was the PhD supervisor of my postdoc supervisor at Keele, Richard Catlow. Incidentally, Coulson died in 1974, shortly before he was due to examine Richard’s thesis.

Harry’s scientific ‘brother’, Roy McWeeny, did his doctorate with Coulson while he was in his first period at Oxford (before King’s). In the preface to his Third Edition of Coulson’s great book, Valence, McWeeny mentions that this was in the years 1946-8. Coulson was at King’s between 1947-52, and Harry’s PhD must have been during this time. McWeeny was at Keele between 1957-65. I have not been able to establish whether McWeeny and Greenwood were at Keele at the same time, but if they were, it is quite significant that two of Coulson’s students were at Keele concurrently!

There is another intriguing Keele connection, in that Coulson’s PhD supervisor at Cambridge was Sir John Lennard-Jones, who was the second Principal of the University College of North Staffordshire, (which became Keele University), between 1953-4.

Finally, John Pople, a scientific brother of Coulson, was responsible for the Gaussian program, which is a widely used computational chemistry code. I’ll be using Gaussian next week, and the students will use this modern code to repeat Coulson’s calculations on molecular hydrogen from 1937.

Returning to Harry Greenwood, he was part of Coulson’s (and ultimately Lennard-Jones’s) scientific dynasty. I am very aware of this as I try to teach the subject that they developed. It is certainly inspirational!

Professor Patrick W M Jacobs (15 September 1923-31 March 2013): Personal recollections

Professor Patrick Jacobs, who died on 31 March 2013, made many significant contributions to the field of Solid State Chemistry, and was one of the key players in the field of research on defects in solids.  I first met him when I was a postdoc at UCL in the early 1980s, and was privileged to get to know him and to learn from him. He remained a mentor, and one of my scientific heroes to whom I have looked up to throughout my career.

I first actually worked with Patrick in 1986 at Keele, when he made one of his regular visits to the Catlow group. At the time he was very interested in silver halides, along with Roger Baetzold and Yen Tan (from Kodak), and Sean Corish, who were also visiting then.  I helped them use the CASCADE code to calculate defect formation energies using various potentials they were deriving at the time. This particular visit was in late August, including the late summer Bank Holiday, and the weather was terrible with frequent torrential rain. I remember one day in particular, when things hadn’t gone well on the calculations front, and Patrick pronounced it the ‘second worst day of his life’ (although he never elaborated to me on which had been the worst day!). His zest for hard work was exemplified by the fact that although the tradition in the Catlow group was to go to the local pub (The Sneyd Arms) at 10 pm most nights, he was always keen to go back to the lab afterwards, although some of us were less keen!

I was privileged to attend a symposium organised in his honour at the University of Western Ontario in 1989, where the photograph below on the right was taken (with Alan Chadwick, Alan Allnatt and Sean Corish). This was followed in 1990 by a meeting at Mansfield College Oxford, also held to honour his contributions to our field. In fact Patrick was a regular attendee at the Mansfield College meetings organised by Richard Catlow, including the Mott anniversary meeting in 1988.

A regular conference fixture for Patrick was the ICDIM/EURODIM series, which I attended fairly regularly from 1984, and with full regularity from 1994. I would meet Patrick at those conferences, and was delighted that he came to EURODIM98, which I organised. Sadly that was the last time I saw him, in July 1998. The photograph on the left shows Patrick with other members of the organising committee of one of the early EURODIM conferences. You may recognise some of the others in the photograph!

Even though I didn’t see Patrick after my conference in 1998, we kept in touch, and I received an e-mail from him as recently as 22 March (2013) with some information about his new book on Thermodynamics, which has just been published. This book, his earlier book on Group Theory with Applications in Chemical Physics, and his very many publications and contributions to Solid State Chemistry will ensure that he lives on in our memories, and continues to inspire us.

 CommitteeAVC3  (1989)