Professor Peter Day FRS#

Obituary, Academia Europaea


Chemistry Department, University College London, 20 Gordon Street, London WC1H 0AJ

Currently Emeritus Professor of Chemistry in the University of London and Fullerian Professor of Chemistry Emeritus at the Royal Institution, Peter Day was born in 1938 in Kent and educated at the local village primary school and nearby grammar school at Maidstone. He was a Scholar, and subsequently a graduate student at Wadham College, Oxford, of which he is now an Honorary Fellow. His doctoral research, carried out in Oxford and Geneva, codified the modern day study of inorganic mixed valence compounds. His seminal publication with M.B. Robin (1967), gave the first rationalisation of the properties of this important class of inorganic compounds, still widely used (over 2000 citations to 2008).

From 1965 to 1988 he was successively Departmental Demonstrator, University Lecturer and Ad Hominem Professor of Solid State Chemistry at Oxford, and a Fellow and Tutor of St John’s College, to which he was elected an Honorary Fellow in 1996. Elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1986, in 1988 he became Associate Director and in 1989 Director of the Institut Laue-Langevin, the European high flux neutron scattering centre in Grenoble. In 1991, he was appointed Director of The Royal Institution and its Davy Faraday Research Laboratory, where subsequently he became Fullerian Professor of Chemistry. In 1994, he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and in 1999 from the University of Kent at Canterbury. In 2002 he was elected to an Honorary Fellowship of University College London. He has held visiting appointments at Universities in Australia, Denmark, France and Spain, and at the corporate research laboratories of the US companies Bell, IBM, Xerox and American Cyanamid.

Peter Day has served on many Royal Society and UK Research Council committees, the British Council Science Advisory Committee and the European Science Foundation. International honours include membership of the Academia Europaea, of which he is the Treasurer and a Trustee, and the Indian Academy of Sciences. In Britain he received the Corday-Morgan Medal and the Award for Solid State Chemistry from the Royal Society of Chemistry. He has advised the European Commission, the French Ministry of Education, the Portuguese and Swiss Ministries of Research and the Swiss National Science Foundation. He has strong contacts with Japan, having acted as external Counsellor to the Institute for Molecular Sciences in Okazaki, External Assessor of the School of Materials Science at the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Kanazawa and in similar capacities at RIKEN, Tokyo and Tohoku University, Sendai. In 1998 he was awarded the Daiwa-Adrian Prize, together with colleagues in Oxford and Yokohama for collaborative research on organic magnets.

Peter Day’s research has centred on synthesising and characterising mainly molecular inorganic and metal-organic solids in a search for unusual magnetic and electron transport (including superconducting) properties. His research output over more than 40 years has resulted in some 680 publications. He has lectured widely on his work, including the Birch Lectureship, ANU Canberra, DuPont Lecture, Indiana and Foundation Lecture, NCL, Puna, India. In 1999 he gave the Royal Society Bakerian Lecture (the Society’s premier lecture in the physical sciences). Royal Society lectures outside the UK include the Blackett Memorial Lecture to the Indian National Science Academy (1994) and the Humphry Davy Lecture to the French Academy of Science (2002).

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