Authorised form of nameThomas; Sir; John Meurig (1932 - 2020); chemist
ForenamesJohn Meurig
Dates1932 - 2020
Dates and placesBirth:
Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales, United Kingdom (15 December 1932)
13 November 2020
Research field:
Solid state chemistry; materials science; catalysts; science communication
The Gwendraeth Valley Grammar School (1944); University College of Swansea (1951-1956); Queen Mary College, University of London, PhD (1956-1958)
Assistant Lecturer, Lecturer, Reader in Chemistry, University of Wales, Bangor (1958-69); Professor of Chemistry and Head of Department, University College, Aberystwyth, Wales (1969-1978); Head of Department of Physical Chemistry, University of Cambridge, and Professorial Fellow at King's College (1978-1986); Chairman of Chemrawn Committee (Chemical Research applied to world needs) of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemstry (1988-1991); Fullerian Professor of Chemistry, Royal Institution (1988-1994); Director, Royal Institution and Davy Faraday Research Laboratory (1986-1991); Deputy Pro-Chancellor, Federal University of Wales (1991-1994); Master of Peterhouse College, University of Cambridge and Distinguished Fellow of the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy (1993-2002); Honorary Professor of Solid State Chemistry, University of Cambridge (2002-2020); Professor Emeritus, Davy Faraday Laboratory, Royal Institution, London (2002-2020); Honorary Distinguished Professor of Materials Chemistry, Cardiff University, Wales (2005-2017); Visiting Professor of Nanoscience, University of South Carolina, USA (2005-2010); Honorary Distinguished Professor of Materials Chemistry, University of Southampton (2006-2010); Honorary Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Nanoscience, University of York (2008-2020); Advisory Professor, Shanghai Jiao Tong University (2009-); Advisory Professor, Hokkaido University, Catalysis Center (2010-);
Kt 1991 for services to chemistry and the popularisation of science
Indian Academy, Bangalore (1981);. Royal Academy of Engineering FREng (1981, honorary 1999); Indian National Academy (1985); Academia Europaea (1989); American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1990); Engineering Academy of Japan; (1991); Academy of Sciences of Venezuela (1994); Royal Swedish Academy of Science (2013); American Philosophical Society (1992); Royal Society of Edinburgh (1993); Russian Academy of Sciences (1994); Third World Academy of Sciences, Trieste (1995); Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1998); Royal Academy of Engineering (Honorary Fellow 1999); Polish Academy of Sciences (1998); Royal Spanish Academy of Sciences (1999); Göttingen Academy of Sciences (2003); Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rome (2004); Mendeleev Chemical Society, Moscow (2005); European Academy of Sciences (2006);
Gold Medal for Outstanding Research from the University of Florence 2016; Zewail/Elsevier Gold Medal and Prize for Molecular Science 2015; Menelaus Medal for Science and Technology, Learned Society of Wales 2015; Blaise Pascal Medal for Materials Science awarded by the European Academy of Sciences 2014; Open Lecturer on Catalysis The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2014; Kapitza Gold Medal, Russian Academy of Natural Sciences 2011; Ertl Prize Lecturer, Fritz-Haber Institut of Max Planck Geselleschaft 2010; Hassel Lectures, University of Oslo 2010; Bragg Prize Lecturer, British Crystallographic Assoc 2010; Sven Breggen Prize Lecturer, Royal Lund Academy of Science and Technology 2010; Ahmed H Zewail Gold Medal and Lectureship, Wayne State University 2009; US Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awardn 2008; The International Precious Metal Institute Distinguished Achievement Award “for pioneering contributions to the field of heterogeneous catalysis using precious metals” 2007; Sir George Stokes Gold Medal, Royal Society of Chemistry “for pioneering and innovative electron based nanochemical analysis” 2005; Silver Medal, University of Siena 2005 “for services to science celebrating 750th Anniversary of the University of Siena”; Guilio Natta Gold Medal, Italian Chemical Society 2004“for outstanding work in catalysis”; Linus Pauling Gold Medal, Stanford University 2003“for contributions to the advancement of science”; Medal of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (London) for services to Welsh culture and British public life 2003 – first scientist to be so honoured since its inception; American Chemical Society Award 1999 “for creative research in heterogeneous and homogeneous catalysis”; Honorary Medal Krakow Academy of Knowledge Poland 1997 “for distinguished public service”; Semenov Centenary Medal, Russian Academy of Sciences 1996; Honorary Medal, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw 1996; Longstaff Medal, Royal Society of Chemistry 1996; Willard Gibbs Gold Medal of the American Chemistry Society 1995 (first British chemist to be honoured in 80 years) “for pioneering work in solid-state chemistry and materials science...His original work (on solids) has led to major advances in the science and technology of absorbents and catalysts”;Messel Gold Medal, Society of Chemical Industry 1992 “for meritorious distinction in science, literature, industry or public affairs”; Faraday Medal, Royal Society of Chemistry 1989; Sesquicentenary Medal of the Royal Microscopical Society 1989; Bruce-Preller Prize Lectureship, Royal Society of Edinburgh 1989; Hugo Muller Medal 1983; Solid-State Chemistry Medal 1978 Elected Member of Gorsedd of Bards of Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales 1978; Tilden Medal 1973; Corday Morgan Medal 1969; The Pettinos Prize (first recipient) American Carbon Society 1969
Royal Society activityMembership:
Election Date:
Davy Medal 1994; Royal Medal 2016
Bakerian 1990; Rutherford Memorial 1997
A Side Editorial Board (2006-2008); Editorial Board of Proceedings of the Royal Society A (2005-2011); Editorial Board of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A (2012-2014, 2015-2017); Editorial Board of Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (2016-2020)
RelationshipsMarried (1) Dec 1959, Margaret Edwards (1937-2002) (2) April 2010, Jehane Ragai
Published works

John Meurig Thomas is the author of over eleven hundred research papers on the materials and surface science of solids, and over 100 review articles on science, education and cultural issues. Over 50 of his papers have been published by Nature, over 90 by Chemical Communications, 9 by Accounts of Chemical Research, and over 40 by Angewandte Chemie Intl. Ed. and Chemistry: An European Journal – all high impact factor journals. As of January 2017, the total number of citations to his papers (from 1972 onwards) was 33,180 with a H-index of 91. Average number of citations per paper 37. He is the co-author of 30 patents, two University texts on Heterogeneous Catalysis and a biographical-philosophical study of Michael Faraday, 1991 (Japanese Translation 1994; Italian Translation, 2007; Chinese Translation, 2014). With AH Zewail he completed a monograph on "4D Electron Microscopy: Imaging in Space and Time" published in 2010 by Imperial College Press. In 2008, the Royal Society of Chemistry published a 900 page book, celebrating his scientific and public life, entitled “Turning points in Solid-State, Materials and Surface Science” ISBN: 978-0-85404-114-5 (Foreword by Roald Hoffmann and Introduction by AH Zewail). His “Design and Applications of Single-Site Heterogeneous Catalysts: Contributions to green Chemistry, Clean Technology and Sustainability” was published in 2012, now in the process of being translated into Chinese. The completely revised Second Edition of “Heterogeneous Catalysis: Principles and Practice” [Wiley-VCH] first published in 1997 with W. J. Thomas, appeared in 2015.
General contextJohn Meurig was renowned for his work in the science of catalysts and solid state chemistry. The production chain of many modern materials and chemicals involves catalysts — substances that speed up chemical reactions, but use less energy and do not get used up themselves. John led the way in developing ‘green’ catalysts to make chemical processes less polluting and more efficient.

John pioneered the use of technologies like electron microscopy and neutron diffraction to ‘see’ how minuscule surface features of catalysts affect chemical reactions. He had particular expertise in heterogeneous catalysts — ones that are in a different phase to the reacting chemicals, such as a solid material that catalyses reactions of liquids.

John was a former director of the Royal Institution, a role that complemented his keen interest in popularising science. Amongst his many publications is a biography of Michael Faraday who made significant contributions to electromagnetism and electrochemistry and is one of the most influential British scientists in history. John was knighted in 1991 for his services to chemistry and science.

In 1995 a newly discovered mineral 'Meurigite' was named in his honour by the International Mineralogical Association to recognise his pioneering work in geochemistry.

Sir John Meurig Thomas HonFREng FRS died on 13 November 2020.
Royal Society profile: (accessed 13 November 2020)
Wikipedia: (accessed 13 November 2020)
'Address of the President, Sir Michael Atiyah, OM, Given at the Anniversary Meeting on 30 November 1994' in NR 1995 vol 49 pp 141-151
J M Thomas, 'Bragg Reflections' in NR 1991 vol 45 pp 243-252
J M Thomas, 'A good lecture is a tour de force... 'Light is a messenger: the life and science of William Lawrence Bragg, by Graeme K Hunter' in NR 2005 vol 59 pp 207-208
J M Thomas 'Max Perutz: Chemist, Molecular Biologist, Human Rights Activist' in NR 2006 vol 60 pp59-67
Virtual International Authority File
Royal Society codeNA2477
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
IM/004540Thomas, Sir John Meurig1994
P/0188Portrait of Thomas, Sir John Meurig1995
EC/1977/36Thomas, Sir John Meurig: certificate of election to the Royal Society1973
IM/GA/JGRS/8342Thomas, John Meurig1984
WF/646Grant application from The Royal Institution of Great Britain to the Wolfson Foundation1 February 1977
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