Baron George Porter of Luddenham (1920-2002)

Biography of George Porter
Royal Institution
Image credit: The Royal Institution


Ri positions

  • Professor of Chemistry, 1963-1966
  • Fullerian Professor of Chemistry, 1966-1988
  • Director, 1966-1986
  • Director of the DFRL, 1966-1986
  • Emeritus Professor, 1988-2002

Born in Stainforth, Yorkshire, he attended Thorne Grammar School before studying chemistry at the University of Leeds. From 1941 until 1945 he served as a Radar Officer in the Royal Navy. After the war he continued his studies at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, of which he was a Fellow from 1952 to 1954.

He was Demonstrator in Physical Chemistry at the University of Cambridge from 1949 until 1952 when he was appointed Assistant Director of Research. After a brief period working for the British Rayon Research Association, he was appointed Professor of Chemistry at the University of Sheffield where he remained until he moved to the Royal Institution.

He was an active researcher here and, for twenty years, the Director as well. In 1967 he won the Nobel Prize for his work on chemical reactions triggered by light, and for photographing the behaviour of molecules during fast reactions. After leaving the Royal Institution in 1986 he moved his research group to Imperial College.

He was also very active in promoting science through various media, including the Ri CHRISTMAS LECTURES, which he gave in 1969 and 1976. It was through Porter's efforts that the CHRISTMAS LECTURES began to be shown on television. He was also involved in a large number of organisations, and was President of the British Association in 1986.

On the occasion of his 65th birthday in December 1985, and to mark his departure as director of the Royal Institution, George Porter recreated some of the most pioneering experiments of the last 200 years in a Friday Evening Discourse at the Ri,