Charles Stirling has made important contributions to physical organic chemistry through his elucidation of organic reaction mechanisms. His early examination of the reactions of organosulfur compounds developed into a wide-ranging investigation of several types of reaction. These types form a part of the mechanistic foundation of modern organic chemistry. The reaction types which he has studied include additions, eliminations, cyclisations, and ring cleavage reactions. Most recently these have included reactions in surfaces. He reported the first comprehensive study of nucleophilic additions alkenes and in kinetic investigations of cyclisation reactions involving intramolecular nucleophilic substitutions, has shown that widely accepted classical generalisations concerning this type of cyclisation reaction are incorrect. The concept of nucleofugality (the tendency of an atom or group to depart with its bonding electron pair), which he proposed, has proved to be extremely useful in leading to an understanding of the influence of structure upon heterolytic reactions. His most recent work has concentrated on intermolecular interactions and the morphology and behaviour of multifunctional molecules in surfaces.
Emeritus Professor of Organic Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, University of Sheffield