George Porter

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Porter of Luddenham
George Porter Nobel.jpg
President of the Royal Society
In office
Preceded by Andrew Huxley
Succeeded by Michael Atiyah
Personal details
Born (1920-12-06)6 December 1920
Died 31 August 2002(2002-08-31) (aged 81)
Nationality British
Alma mater University of Leeds
Known for Flash Photolysis

George Hornidge Porter, Baron Porter of Luddenham OM PRS[1] (6 December 1920 – 31 August 2002) was a British chemist.[2] He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1967.


Porter was born in Stainforth, near Thorne, South Yorkshire. He was educated at Thorne Grammar School,[3] then won a scholarship to the University of Leeds and gained his first degree in chemistry. He then served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve during the Second World War.

Porter then went on to do research at Cambridge under Norrish where he began the work that ultimately led to them becoming Nobel Laureates.

His original research in developing the technique of flash photolysis to obtain information on short-lived molecular species provided the first evidence of free radicals. His later research utilised the technique to study the minutiae of the light-dependent reactions of photosynthesis, with particular regard to possible applications to a hydrogen economy, of which he was a strong advocate.

He was Assistant Director of the British Rayon Research Association from 1953–4, where he studied the phototendering of dyed cellulose fabrics in sunlight.[4]

Porter became a professor in the Chemistry department at Sheffield University in 1954-55. It was here he started his work on Flash Photolysis with equipment designed and made in the departmental workshop. During this tenure he also took part in a television programme describing his work. This was in the "Eye on Research" series. Porter became Fullerian Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Royal Institution in 1966. During his directorship of the Royal Institution, Porter was instrumental in the setting up of Applied Photophysics, a company created to supply instrumentation based on his group's work. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1967 along with Manfred Eigen and Ronald George Wreyford Norrish.[5] In the same year he became a Visiting Professor at University College London.[5]

Porter was president of the Royal Society 1985–1990, having been elected a Fellow in 1960 and also winning the Davy Medal in 1971, the Rumford Medal in 1978, the Ellison-Cliffe Medal in 1991 and the Copley Medal in 1992. He was knighted in 1972 and was made a life peer as Baron Porter of Luddenham, of Luddenham in the County of Kent, in 1990. In 1995, he was awarded an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Laws) from the University of Bath.[6]

Porter was a major contributor to the public understanding of science. He became president of the British Association in 1985 and was the founding Chair of the Committee on the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS). He gave the Romanes Lecture, entitled "Science and the human purpose", at the University of Oxford in 1978; and in 1988 he gave the Dimbleby Lecture, "Knowledge itself is power". From 1990 to 1993 he gave the Gresham lectures in astronomy.

Porter served as Chancellor of the University of Leicester between 1984 and 1995. In 2001, the university's chemistry building was named the George Porter Building in his honour.


In 1976 he was invited to deliver the Royal Institution Christmas Lecture on The Natural History of a Sunbeam.

See also


  1. Fleming, G. R.; Phillips, D. (2004). "George Porter KT OM, Lord Porter of Luddenham. 6 December 1920 - 31 August 2002: Elected F.R.S. 1960". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 50: 257. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2004.0017.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Phillips, D. (2002). "Obituary: George Porter (1920–2002)". Nature. 419 (6907): 578. doi:10.1038/419578a. PMID 12374966.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/77183. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. David Phillips The Biography of George Porter.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "George Porter – Biography". Nobel Media. Retrieved 30 April 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Honorary Graduates 1989 to present". University of Bath. Retrieved 18 February 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Cultural offices
Preceded by
William Lawrence Bragg
Director of the Royal Institution
Succeeded by
John Meurig Thomas
Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir Alan Hodgkin
Chancellor of the University of Leicester
Succeeded by
Sir Michael Atiyah