Sir John Meurig Thomas HonFREng FRS

John Meurig Thomas 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 has 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 has 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 is 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.

Sir John Meurig Thomas HonFREng FRS died on 13 November 2020.

Subject groups

  • Chemistry

    Chemistry, physical, Chemistry, materials

  • Other

    Public understanding of science


  • Bakerian Medal and Lecture

    On 'New microcrystalline catalysts'.

  • Davy Medal

    For his pioneering studies of solid-state chemistry, and for the major advances he has made in the design of new materials for heterogeneous catalysis.

  • Royal Medals

    For his pioneering work within catalytic chemistry, in particular on single-site heterogeneous catalysts, which have had a major impact on green chemistry, clean technology and sustainability.

  • Rutherford Memorial Lecture

    Given in New Zealand.

Sir John Meurig Thomas HonFREng FRS
Elected 1977