Eric Keightley Rideal (1890-1974)

Biography of Eric Keightley Rideal

Eric Keightley Rideal was one of the founders of catalysis, famous for his work at the Colloid Science Laboratory, and was Director of the Davy-Faraday Research Laboratory from 1946-1949.

Photograph of Eric Keightley Rideal
Credit: Royal Institution


Ri positions

  • Fullerian Professor of Chemistry, 1946-1949
  • Superintendent of the House, 1946-1949
  • Director of the Davy-Faraday Research Laboratory, 1946-1949

Rideal studied electrochemistry, other research topics included nitrogen and catalysis. During the 1939-45 war he worked on worked on explosives, fuels and other war related work.


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.