It’s all about the chemistry as BRLSI lectures return to the Elwin Room

Dr David Cunliffe-Jones, BRLSI Science Convenor, speaking on “Favourite Small Molecules”, BRLSI 17th September 2010
The BRLSI’s flagship Elwin Room became an office suite for August and early September while the roof of the Moore Room building was being renewed, so it was with some relief that the Institution’s lecture programme found it transformed back to its normal layout in time for the autumn season, which began with lectures by two of BRLSI’s own Group Convenors. On Thursday it was the Philosphy Group’s Dr Don Cameron, who spoke on Why I am not a Christian (a topical subject in view of the current State Visit), and tonight it was Science Group Convenor Dr David Cunliffe-Jones, on a subject close to his heart, Favourite Small Molecules.
David Cunliffe-Jones spent his career as an industrial research chemist, and still maintains a private laboratory today. From 1960 onwards he worked for two of the world’s leading companies, first Distillers (who were involved in rather more than just Gin, although as he pointed out, they did know a lot about distilling) and later Kodak.
David’s field – spectroscopy and specifically the study of polarity and vibrational bands in molecules – is a specialised one, and in truth this wasn’t a lecture for the layman. However while the chemists in the audience gained insights from David’s comments on infrared absorption bands in mono substituted benzines, even those with no scientific training came away with a fairly revelatory view of just how detailed and complex the world of industrial chemistry really is, and how many factors, most of them unheard of outside the industry, go into designing the ‘super molecules’ that make up today’s advanced materials.
‘I respond to beauty’, David told us, then showed some charts of molecular behaviour in which he clearly saw it. It’s that kind of imagination that’s created things unimaginable 50 years ago.