Robert J.P. Williams F.R.S. - Biography#


Professor Williams is now Emeritus Fellow at Wadham College and Emeritus Professor, Oxford University. He was born in 1926, and educated at Wallasey Grammar School. He studied chemistry at Merton College, Oxford, graduating in 1948. He took his doctor's degree at Oxford in 1951 working with Professor H.M.N. Irving. With Professor A. Tiselius (Uppsala Sweden) 1951-52 he developed certain chromatographic methods of analysis. He became lecturer and tutor in Chemistry at Wadham College and at the University of Oxford 1955-1965. In 1966 he wrote a textbook of Inorganic Chemistry (with C.S.G. Phillips). After a year at Harvard University 1965-66 he changed to teach biochemistry until 1974. He became successively Reader 1972 and Napier Royal Society Research Professor at Oxford 1974-91. He was elected Fellow of The Royal Society in 1972, and is a foreign member of the Swedish, Portuguese, Czechoslovakian, and Belgian Science Academies. He has given named lecture series in several European and U.S. Universities and has given plenary international lectures at many Chemistry, Biochemistry and Biology Conferences. He is a medallist of The Biochemical Society (twice), The Royal Society (twice), The Royal Society of Chemistry (three times), The European Biochemical Societies (twice) and the International Union of Biochemistry. He has honorary degrees from Louvain, Leicester, Keele and East Anglia Universities. He was a founder member of The Oxford Enzyme Group which has devised many new methods for the study of in vitro and in vivo biological systems.

His major research contributions concern metal ions and their function in biological systems. The emphasis in this work is that all biological systems are derived from a combination of inorganic and organic compounds. There is no life without minerals and during the course of evolution there have been considerable changes in mineral chemistry due to life. The work is summarized in four books - The Biological Chemistry of The Elements (1991) and second edition (2001), The Natural Selection of The Chemical Elements (1996), Bringing Chemistry to Life (1999), and The Chemistry of Evolution. The Development of our Ecosystem (2006). All four books are co-authored by J.J.R. Fraústo da Silva. In these books he has shown that the understanding of chemical elements in the environment is essential to the stability of life on Earth. The chemical environment is much more complex than has been recognized and effectively dominates the life forms, including man, which can exist.

POSITIONS
  • 1950 Rotary International Fellow, Uppsala, Sweden
  • 1951 D.Phil. Oxford University
  • 1951-55 Junior Research Fellow, Merton College, Oxford
  • 1955-66 Tutor in Chemistry, Wadham College, Oxford
  • 1956-66 Commonwealth Fellow, Harvard Medical School, U.S.A.
  • 1966-72 Tutor in Biochemistry, Wadham College, Oxford University
  • 1955-72 Lecturer in Chemistry, Oxford University
  • 1972-74 Reader in Chemistry, Oxford University
  • 1974-91 Royal Society Napier Research Professor at Oxford
  • 1985-86 President Chemistry Section - British Association for the Advancement of Science
  • 1989 Honorary Fellow, Merton College, Oxford
  • 1991-93 President Dalton Division of The Royal Chemical Society G.B.
  • 1991-93 Senior Research Fellow, Wadham College, Oxford
  • 1991- Visiting Professor, Royal Free Hospital, London University
  • 1993- Emeritus Professor, Oxford University
  • 1993- Emeritus Fellow, Wadham College, Oxford

MEDALS, DEGREES AND MEMBERSHIP OF ACADEMIES
  • 1970 Tilden Lecturer and Medallist, Chemical Society (England)
  • 1972 Keilen Medal, Biochemical Society (England)
  • 1972 Fellow of Royal Society (England)
  • 1979 Liversidge Lecturer and Medallist Royal Society Chemistry (England)
  • 1979 Hughes Medal, The Royal Society (England)
  • 1980 Doctor of Science, University of Liege, Belgium
  • 1980 Claire Brylants (Medal) University of Louvain
  • 1981 Commemoration Lecturer, Biochemistry Institute, University of Zurich
  • 1981 Foreign Member Lisbon Academy of Science
  • 1981 Foreign Member Royal Society of Science, Liege
  • 1984 Foreign Member Royal Swedish Academy of Science
  • 1985 Sir Hans Krebs Medal European Biochemical Societies
  • 1985 Hon.D.Sc. University of Leicester (England)
  • 1986 Linderstrom-Lang Medal (Copenhagen)
  • 1987 Sigillum Magnum (Medal) University of Bologna
  • 1988 Heyrovsky Medal International Union of Biochemistry
  • 1989 Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins Medal Biochemical Society (England)
  • 1989 Foreign Member Czechoslovakian Academy of Science
  • 1992 Hon. D.Sc. University of East Anglia (England)
  • 1993 Hon. D.Sc. University of Keele (England)
  • 1993 Member of Academia Europaea
  • 1995 Royal Medal of The Royal Society
  • 1996 Doctoris Honoris Causa, Instituto Superior Tecnico, University of Lisbon
  • 1997 Hon. Member of The European Calcium Society
  • 1997 Hon. Member of The Society for Biological Inorganic Chemistry
  • 1997 Hon. Member of The British Biophysical Society
  • 2002 Longstaff Medal of The Royal Society of Chemistry

NAMED LECTURES
  • 1972 Buchman Memorial Lecturer, California Institute Technology (USA)
  • 1976 Distinguished Visiting Lecturer, University of Princeton (USA)
  • 1978 Frank C. Mathers Lecturer, Indiana University (USA)
  • 1978 Burton Lecturer, King's College, London
  • 1980 Distinguished Visiting Lecturer, University of Toronto (Canada)
  • 1981 Bakerian Lecturer, Royal Society (England)
  • 1983 Distinguished Visiting Lecturer, University of Dalhousie (Canada)
  • 1984 Guest Speaker Muscle Club (Switzerland)
  • 1986 Katritsky Lecturer, University of Norwich (England)
  • 1986 Chermeda Lecturer Penn. State (USA)
  • 1986 Sunner Memorial Lecturer, University of Lund (Sweden)
  • 1986 A Scheele Memorial Lecture, Swedish Academy
  • 1987 Alan Johnson Memorial Lectures, University of Sussex (England)
  • 1988 Heyrovsky Lecture. International Union Biochemistry
  • 1988 Drummond Lecture in Biology, University of London
  • 1988 Guest Lecture Swiss Physiological Society
  • 1989 Gerhard Schmidt Memorial Lecture Israel
  • 1990 Stauffer Lecture, University of Southern California (USA)
  • 1991 Arthur D. Little Lectures, Mass. Institute Techn. (USA)
  • 1992 Pewterers Lecture, Institute of Neurology, University of London
  • 1992 Ferdinand Springer Lecturer, European Biochem. Soc. Brussels, Rome, Munich
  • 1992 Goodman Lecture (London)
  • 1992 Wenner-Gren Lecture (Stockholm)
  • 1993 Jesse Boot Lecturer at University of Nottingham (England)
  • 1993 J.D. Bernal Lecture, Birkbeck College, London
  • 1994 Dutch Bio-inorganic Group Lecturer, Agricultural College, Wagningen
  • 1994 John Innes Lecturer, University of East Anglia
  • 1994 Table Rond Lecturer, Oxford
  • 1994 Special Lecturer, Royal Free Hospital, Biochemistry Dept., London
  • 1994 IUPAC 75th Anniversary Lecturer (London)
  • 1994 John Howard Appleton Lecturer, Brown University (USA)
  • 1994 Peter Leermakers Lecturer, Wesleyan University (USA)
  • 1995 Durham University Chem. Soc.
  • 1995 EC Cancer and Inorganic Elements (Luxembourg)
  • 1995 Norwich Research Park Annual Lecture
  • 1995 Conference Le Bel Strasbourg
  • 1996 K.S. Dodgson Memorial Lecture (University of Cardiff)
  • 1996 Bateson Lecturer (John Innes Symposium No.12)
  • 1996 U.K./Canada Rutherford Lecturer (Royal Society)
  • 1996 Mildred Cohn Lecturer (University of Philadelphia, USA)
  • 1996 Visiting Wellcome Professor, and Wellcome Lecturer (University of Vermont, USA)
  • 1997 Daniell Lecturer, King's College, London
  • 1997 Solvay-Interox Lecturer (Edinburgh, York, Liverpool & East Anglia Universities)
  • 1997 School's Lecture (Marie Curie) The Royal Society, London
  • 1999 JD Birchall Memorial Lecture, Keele University
  • 2000 “A Chemist View of Evolution” Huxley Lecture, University of Birmingham
  • 2002 “Evolution was Chemically Constrained” The Royal Society of Edinburgh

PLENARY LECTURER

A full list of plenary lectures has not been given since there are more than 50 on the following topics:

  • Coordination Chemistry
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy of Proteins
  • Bringing Chemistry to Life
  • Protein Machines
  • Metal Ions in Biological Systems
  • Organic Chemistry of Free Radicals
  • Calcium Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Science and The Good Life

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