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History

The School of Chemistry at St Andrews has a long history of research achievement stretching back to 1811.

For example, the concept of aromaticity, first realised with Kekule by the Scot, AM Couper, was further developed in St Andrews in 1925 with the coining of the term 'aromatic sextet' by Prof Sir Robert Robinson and his research student at the time, local baker's son, James Wilson Armit. Armit famously etched a benzene ring (hexagon with inscribed circle) onto the window of his father's shop, possibly the first time this image was displayed before a wider public.

This event was recently commemorated here in St Andrews with the baking of a special benzene biscuit! Sir Robert Robinson also pioneered the use of the curly arrow, as described in a recent article in Chemistry World "The Iconic Curly Arrow" (PDF, 843 KB)  by St Andrews Profs David O'Hagan and Douglas Lloyd.

St Andrews Chemistry @ 200

The 2011-12 academic year sees two centuries of chemical teaching and research carried out the University of St Andrews. In celebration of this we are holding a series of themed Bicentenniel Mini-symposia which showcase some of the current research undertaken in the School alongside that of eminent researchers in the field. The first of these was held on 6th October, 2010 with a theme based on Organometallic Chemistry (see Bicentenniel symposium 1 (PDF, 205 KB)).

The remaining Bicentenniel Symposia will be held in 2011 on: 9th March (Framework solids (PDF, 240 KB) ), 30th March Energy materials programme (PDF, 161 KB)), 6th April Catalysis programme (PDF, 171 KB) and  11th May Organic Symposium (PDF, 11 KB) .

In recent years the quality of research in the School of Chemistry has developed in both strength and depth, as reflected by the recent Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). We hope you will show your support for these symposia and encourage members of your research group to attend.

Elements of genius logoBy coincidence, elsewhere 2011 has been designated the International Year of Chemistry (IYC). On the IYC website another of our bicentenary events is listed: "Elements of Genius: The Legacy of Chemistry in St Andrews" 19 March 2011 - 21 May 2011, Gateway Galleries, North Haugh, St Andrews, KY16 9RJ. FREE ADMISSION. An exhibition hosted by students at the University of St Andrews celebrating the 200th anniversary of the teaching of chemistry at the university. The Gateway Galleries will feature a display of notable chemists, amazing discoveries and historic apparatus. 

1811: Teaching of science in the University

From the University archives:

Old item of chemistry glassware "This item of chemical glassware was among several pieces found in the tower of St Salvator's chapel at the University of St Andrews in the 1920s. It dates from the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century and is in display in the Museum of the University of St Andrews (MUSA).

It is thought that the glassware was once used in the teaching of chemistry, which formed part of the curriculum for the degree of Master of Arts. The University's archives contain a receipt dated 7 October 1811 for the purchase, from Dr Thomson of Edinburgh, of scientific equipment including glassware.

Although funds were provided in 1811, the first Professor of Chemistry was not appointed until 1840.

The Chemistry Collection includes instruments acquired for teaching from the nineteenth century onwards as well as important products of research. It is now recognised to be of historical significance.

The Library also houses the Alchemy Collection of books and manuscripts, largely gathered by Professor John Read who was a renowned scholar of the history of science."

Chemistry today

In recent years the School's research activity has grown stronger than ever. In the last Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) in Dec 2008 the School, as part of EaStCHEM, came joint fourth with Bristol in the Grade Point Average (GPA) metric. The School came first when staff numbers are factored in (the power ranking), sitting above Oxford and Cambridge.

Currently there are over 40 members of staff. The School has 90 graduate students and around 40 postdoctoral workers. The School is recognised as a research leader in the UK, with research activity and strength over most of the key areas and interfaces in the chemical sciences. See our current main research strengths, a summary of the research output of the School, including a complete list of recent publications from the School of Chemistry. A list of publications from 1840 to 2003, compiled by the late Douglas Lloyd, can be found here.