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Healthy, wealthy and wise: the benefits of chemical research

Posted on 27. August, 2015.

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We live in a molecular world, and it is thus to chemists that we turn to solve the problems of life in that world. Chemistry may not enjoy the perceived glamour that fundamental questions in physics such as the origins of the universe, and the structure of the nucleus, seem to attract, nor the immensely expensive pieces of equipment, the giant telescopes or Large Hadron Collider, but chemistry is universal, and of huge importance to humanity. 

In 2011, the World celebrated the International Year of Chemistry (IYC), and the interest created by events undertaken throughout the world continues to excite the young, the lay public, and chemists themselves, and will do so for much time to come. This article owes its inspiration to a demonstration lecture conceived by the author to publicise both the IYC, and chemistry in general, and was entitled ‘Prosperity Through Chemistry’.
However, 2015 is the International Year of Light (IYL), and as the author has spent his entire career working in the field of photochemistry and photophysics, in celebration of IYL, the content of the original lecture has been expanded to provide more detail on the fields of light applied to chemistry, and the benefits to mankind in terms of new knowledge, new applications, focusing on ‘prosperity’ in health and energy. Arbitrarily, the time-scale covered is that of the lifetime of the author, born in 1939, and includes recent developments, plus a look at the future.

Read the full article in Science Progress, Volume 98, Number 2, June 2015, pp. 128-144.

Author: David Phillips, CBE, FRS

David Phillips is a world-renowned photochemist through his work on time-correlated single photon counting; ultrafast vibrational spectroscopy to study charge transfer in excited electron states; fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy; and photodynamic therapy. His scientific career has been complemented by an active role in science outreach, with live demonstration lectures reaching a combined live audience of over a quarter of a million, as well as media appearances – from the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures to Desert Island Discs on the BBC. He is currently Senior Science Ambassador, Schools, Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Investigator at Imperial College London. He was awarded the CBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours in January 2012 for his services to chemistry. He was Editor of Science Progress for many years. He served as President of the RSC from 2010 until 2012 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2015.