Keith J. Laidler
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
In this interview, K. J. Laidler recalls his childhood, early education, and undergraduate days at Oxford University. He then speaks about his colleagues and teachers at Princeton University where he did graduate work. A consideration of the inception and development of the transition-state theory follows. Laidler then appraises the research that he did both with Steacie in Canada an independently at the Catholic University of America. He also comments upon the nitric oxide research of Hinshelwood and on his own recent work at the University of Ottawa. Finally, Laidler recollects the personal characteristics of several eminent chemists, among them Cyril Hinshelwood, Henry Eyring, and Hugh Stott Taylor.
|1937||University of Oxford||BA||Chemistry|
|1940||Princeton University||PhD||Physical Chemistry|
|1955||University of Oxford||MA||Physical Chemistry|
|1956||University of Oxford||DSc||Physical Chemistry|
National Research Council Canada
Canadian Armaments Research and Development Establishment
Catholic University of America
University of Ottawa
Queen's Jubilee Medal
Table of Contents
Early interests in chemistry and physics. Family and school emphasis on humanities. Sidgwick's Electronic Theory of Valency. Training in languages. The influence of Dickinson and Parton.
First impressions of Oxford and Hinshelwood. Oxonian traditions. Courses, labs, and lectures. Early work on reactions in solution. Hinshelwood as tutor and linguist. Commonwealth Fellowship.
Personality and approach to research. Contrast to Hinshelwood and Oxford.
Eyring as a lecturer. Courses in quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, organic and inorganic chemistry. Kinetics with Hugh Taylor. Early transition-state work by Eyring and Hirschfelder. The Theory of Rate Processes.
Reception of transition-state theory. Polanyi's and Evans' paper. Opposition to the theory by Lindemann and others. World War II.
Work on free radical solutions with Steacie at the National Research Council of Canada. Ballistics and propellants at the Inspection Board of the U. K. and Canada.
Teaching biochemistry. Walter Moore and Hugh Hulburt. Conflicts with F. O. Rice. Rice's and Herzfeld's work on organic decompositions.
Early work by Hinshelwood and Staveley. Rice's free radical interpretation. Hinshelwood's molecular mechanisms. Contributions by Laidler and Wojciechowski.
Gas phase kinetics, organic decompositions, and enzyme-catalyzed reactions. Formations of intermediates. Immobilization of enzymes. Chemical Kinetics.
Hinshelwood's linguistic and literary interests. The effects of World War II. Painting and cats.
A friendly personality. Contrast of Mormonism to Princeton life. Exposure to the theatre. Problems with writing. Eyring's nationalism.
Hugh Taylor as chairman of the Princeton chemistry department. E. J. Bowen, D. L. Chapman, and J. W. Linnett. Noyes' visits to the University of Ottawa.
Amateur theatre in Ottawa. Lecturing as acting. Acting as compliment to an academic life.
About the Interviewer
Mary Christine King was born in China and educated in Ireland. She obtained a BSc degree in chemistry from the University of London in 1968, which was followed by an MSc in polymer and fiber science (1970) and a PhD for a thesis on the hydrodynamic properties of paraffins in solution (1973), both from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. After working with Joseph Needham at Cambridge, she received a PhD in the history and philosophy of science from the Open University (1980) and thereafter worked at the University of California, Berkeley, and at the University of Ottawa, where she carried out research with Dr. Keith Laidler. King died in an automobile accident in late 1987; her recent biography E. W. R. Steacie and Science in Canada (University of Toronto Press, 1989) was published posthumously.