Born in Sydenham, he attended Farnham Grammar School and Oundle School before studying the Natural Sciences Tripos at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He continued his studies in Aachen and Bonn where he received his doctorate.
During the Great War he served in the Artists' Rifles and the Royal Engineers where he supervised water supplies on the Somme. Invalided out in 1916 he worked at University College London, on catalysis. He spent 1919 and 1920 at the University of Illinois before returning to Trinity Hall to teach physical chemistry and in 1930 became Professor of Colloid Science in the University of Cambridge.
During the 1939-1945 war his group worked on explosives, fuels and other war related work. As Dale's successor at the Royal Institution, Rideal sought to revive its programmes and research, but found the antiquated governance difficult to cope with, especially during the period of post-war austerity. After leaving the Royal Institution he became Professor of Physical Chemistry at King's College, London, which he held until retirement in 1955 although he continued research at Imperial College.
Further reading: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
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