Geoffrey Wilkinson

Geoffrey Wilkinson

Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson
Born (1921-07-14)14 July 1921
Todmorden, England
Died 26 September 1996(1996-09-26) (aged 75)
London, England
Nationality United Kingdom
Fields Inorganic chemistry
Institutions University of California, Berkeley
Harvard University
Imperial College
Alma mater Imperial College
Doctoral advisor Henry Vincent Aird Briscoe
Known for Homogeneous transition metal catalysis
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1973)
Royal Medal (1981)
Davy Medal (1996)
Fellow of the Royal Society[1]

Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson transition metal catalysis.[2]


  • Biography 1
  • Work 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Wilkinson was born at Springside, choirmaster, had married into a family that owned a small chemical company making Epsom and Glauber's salts for the pharmaceutical industry; this is where he first developed an interest in chemistry.

He was educated at the local council primary school and, after winning a County Scholarship in 1932, went to Todmorden Grammar School. His physics teacher there, Luke Sutcliffe, had also taught Sir John Cockcroft, who received a Nobel Prize for "splitting the atom".

Wilkinson's catalyst RhCl(PPh3)3

In 1939 he obtained a Royal Scholarship for study at University of California, Berkeley, mostly on nuclear taxonomy.[4] He then became a Research Associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and began to return to his first interest as a student - transition metal complexes of ligands such as carbon monoxide and olefins.

He was then at the Harvard University from September 1951 until he returned to England in December 1955, with a sabbatical break of nine months in Copenhagen. At Harvard, he still did some nuclear work on excitation functions for protons in cobalt, but had already begun to work on olefin complexes.

In June 1955 he was appointed to the chair of Inorganic Chemistry at Imperial College London, and from then on worked almost entirely on the complexes of transition metals.

In 1980 he was awarded an honorary doctorate of science from the University of Bath. Imperial College London named a new hall of residence after him, which opened in October 2009.

He was married, with two daughters.


Structure of ferrocene Fe(C5H5)2

He is well known for his development of Wilkinson's catalyst RhCl(PPh3)3, and for the discovery of the structure of ferrocene. Wilkinson's catalyst is used industrially in the hydrogenation of alkenes to alkanes.[5]

He received many awards, including the

  • Wilkinson's Nobel Foundation biography
  • Wilkinson's Nobel Lecture The Long Search for Stable Transition Metal Alkyls
  • Video podcast of Wilkinson talking about organometallic chemistry
  • Geoffrey Wilkinson Patents
  • Wilkinson Hall at Imperial College London
  • Jardine, F.H. (1996). "The Contributions of Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson, F.R.S., (1921–1996) to Rhodium Chemistry". Rhodium Express 16: 4–10.  

External links

  1. ^ a b  
  2. ^ "Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson 1921−1996 IN MEMORIAM". Inorganic Chemistry 35 (26): 7463–7464. 1996.  
  3. ^ a b daughter, pernille wilkinson
  4. ^
  5. ^ Osborn, J. A.; Jardine, F. H.; Young, J. F.; Wilkinson, G. (1966). "The Preparation and Properties of Tris(triphenylphosphine)halogenorhodium(I) and Some Reactions Thereof Including Catalytic Homogeneous Hydrogenation of Olefins and Acetylenes and Their Derivatives".  
  6. ^ Cotton, Frank Albert; Wilkinson, Geoffrey; Murillo, Carlos A. (1999). Advanced Inorganic Chemistry. p. 1355.