Professor Ken Wade FRS - Chancellor's Medal Biography

Professor Ken Wade is one of the most illustrious former members of staff of Durham University and is an Emeritus Professor in Durham’s Department of Chemistry.

Professor Wade graduated with a BSc Honours (First Class) in Chemistry from the University of Nottingham in 1954, followed by a PhD in 1957, and a DSc in 1970.

During his career Professor Wade has held academic posts at the universities of Cambridge (1957 – 1959) and Cornell, USA (1959 - 1960). He joined Durham University from Derby Technology College as a lecturer in inorganic chemistry in 1961, rising through the department to Senior Lecturer and Reader. On the death of Professor Tom Waddington he became leader of inorganic chemistry. He was appointed Professor of Chemistry in 1983. During his Durham career he has been chair or a member of numerous departmental and university committees including President of the Society of Fellows (mid 1990’s), governing body/council of St Mary’s College (1992-2002), assisting in senior roles on the University’s Stockton Campus (1997-2002), and pioneering MSc courses there. A lecture theatre in the Calman Learning Centre is named in his honour.

Professor Wade is a scholar of considerable distinction, as is illustrated through the variety of eminent positions he has held. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 1970, and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1989. He has held a number of visiting professorships at universities around the world including Warsaw, Amsterdam, Southern California, Notre Dame, McMaster and Western Ontario. He served as President of the Dalton Division of the Royal Society of Chemistry from 1995 to 1997. He was awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry Main Group Element Award (1982), the Tilden Lectureship (1987) and the Mond Lectureship (1998) as well as the Merck Lectureship (Germany) in 1994.

He has chaired or served on various research council committees, advisory committees of other universities and many committees of the Royal Society of Chemistry. He has been external examiner at bachelor, master or doctorate level in some 50 other universities in the UK and abroad.

During his first decade at Durham, Professor Wade set up a thriving research group probing covalent chemistry of main group metals and metalloids, and wrote or co-authored three books (on organometallic compounds, on principles of organometallic chemistry, and on electron deficient compounds), that charted and influenced global developments in these rapidly expanding fields. Interests in structural and bonding issues led him to devise simple electron-counting rules to explain or predict the polyhedral structures of so-called 'electron deficient' cluster compounds such as boron hydrides that had challenged earlier bonding descriptions, transforming these apparent rule-breakers into pattern-makers for a wide range of other compounds. These are known as “Wade's Rules” around the world, but in Durham were always taught under the name “polyhedral skeletal electron pair theory”! Refining and developing his rules, exploring various aspects of organometallic, cluster, polymer, materials and catalysis chemistry, and demonstrating the relevance of boron hydride chemistry to hydrocarbon chemistry, have occupied him fully subsequently.

He is the author of over 200 research publications and his latest co-authored book, the second edition of “Hypercarbon Chemistry”, appeared in 2011.

Since his retirement in 1997 Professor Wade continues to represent Durham University with extraordinary energy and zeal and is still actively engaged with the Department and its alumni. Many of Professor Wade's past students and colleagues returned to Durham in 2011 as part of Chemistry's celebration of 50 years in their current building. The award of the Chancellor’s medal is a fitting climax to Ken's service to Durham University over the same 50 year period.

L Hughes 18 January 2012 – based on information from Professor John Evans, Head of the Department of Chemistry and the nomination form completed by Professor Sir Arnold Wolfendale FRS.

hod/wade_biography_chancellor.txt · Last modified: 2016/05/26 14:32 (external edit)
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