Skip to content
Jump to



Bakerian Lecture given by Professor Peter Edwards FRS

That most elementary question 'what is a metal?' has generated a long and surprising history of answers, dating back to the landmark discovery in 1807 of the (then) new metals potassium and sodium; reported by Sir Humphry Davy in his Bakerian Lecture of that year. But why are some chemical elements and substances metals (magnificent conductors of electricity) while others are insulating, stubbornly resistive, non-conductors? And why is it that the very best conductor of electricity at low temperatures (a superconductor) is not a shiny metal but a dull black, chemically complex ceramic oxide? Paradoxically, this brittle ceramic at room temperature could hardly be called a metal! So, what is this thing called 'metal'?

Professor Peter Edwards FRS was awarded the Bakerian Prize for his decisive contributions to the physics, chemistry and materials science of condensed matter including his work on the metal-to-insulator transition.

Peter P Edwards is Professor and Head of Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Oxford. His research interests include metal-insulator transitions, high temperature superconductivity, metals in non-aqueous solvents, small metallic particles and energy materials, with a particular emphasis on new-generation, high-performance materials for hydrogen production and storage, CO2 activation and utilisation, inorganic semiconductor thin films for solar energy applications and advanced catalytic materials. Following BSc and PhD degrees at Salford University, Edwards spent periods at Cornell University (Fulbright Scholar and National Science Foundation Fellow), University of Cambridge (Lecturer and Director of Studies in Chemistry, Jesus College) and the University of Birmingham (Professor of Chemistry, and of Materials), before assuming his present position at Oxford in 2003. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1996 and the German Academy of Sciences in 2009. He has recently has been awarded an Einstein Professorship of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.