Fritz Paneth's Research Group

[Dr Friedrich Adolf Paneth moved from a readership at London University (Imperial College) in 1939 to take up the chair of chemistry at Durham. History A wartime secondment (1942-1945) placed him in Montreal as head of chemistry in the British-Canadian atomic-energy team. atomic-energy team. In 1947 he was elected fellow of the Royal Society (London). He relinquished the chair at Durham in 1953 to become director of the Max-Plank Institute for Chemistry at Mainz, where he lived until his death in 1958, aged 71. Friedrich Paneth]

Group members by year of joining (Each postgraduate listed obtained the qualifications shown.)

1946 Frank Morgan Ph.D. (i.e. on October 1 started a Ph.D. study period of 36 months full-time), Albert C. English M.Sc. (i.e. on October 1 started an M.Sc. study of 12 months full-time); 1948 A. Hollis and Alec Robson and Edward I. Wilson Ph.D.s; 1949 László Tordai (ICI postdoctoral fellow, 48 months, surname anglicised subsequently to Torday - first holder: for successor see Graham Martin's Research Group, 1953), Philip Reasbeck and Dennis G. Tuck [D.Sc. 1971] Ph.D.s, E. Reuben Mercer (research assistant, 24 months); 1950 John R. Richards (research assistant, 12 months), John Golden Ph.D., Bjarne S. Wiborg Ph.D. [after 34 months - on Fritz Paneth's resignation - supervision was transferred to Geoff Coates]; 1951 John R. Richards (associated fixed-term lecturer, 12 months); 1952 Peter G. Saunders (research assistant, 10 months).

Beyond this immediate group were other personnel of the Londonderry Laboratory for Radiochemistry, which Fritz Paneth directed from 1946 to 1953. In that period the groups of Graham Martin and Sam Thomson were part of the Laboratory; some of the postgraduates in the photograph below are their supervisees [see the pages for Martin and Thomson]. Among Paneth's other collaborators was Kenneth (Frederick) Chackett, a physicist with links to the group that were well established by 1947 and were recognised by his appointment in October 1950 to a lectureship in chemistry at Durham. The collaboration survived Chackett's move a year later to a lectureship in physics at Birmingham University and ended formally with the award in October 1953 of a Ph.D. to Philip Reasbeck, of whose research he had been the de facto supervisor.


Radiochemistry researchers in 1951, July (left to right): W. Harry Fettis (glassblower), R. Aeschenbacher (Swiss postdoctoral visitor), Bjarne S. Wiborg (postgraduate), Bill Bradley (workshop technician), John C. Dalton (p/g), Margaret Davidson (Paneth's secretary), Friedrich A. Paneth (professor), Dennis G. Tuck (p/g), B.K.Purkayastha (Indian postdoctoral visitor), John W. Ogleby (p/g, unsuccessful), John Golden (p/g), Mrs E. Martin (wife of Graham), Dr Kenneth F. Chackett (lecturer), Dr Ladislos Tordai (ICI research fellow), Mino Green (p/g), John R. Richards (research assistant), Mr Graham R. Martin (reader), E. Reuben Mercer (research assistant).


Albert C. English, writing in 2000, recalled studying in wartime.

From '37 to '40 I studied for a B.Sc., when Professor Paneth was Chairman. Wartime, and I was sent south to do Chemistry in Farnborough. In '43, Prof. Paneth invited me to join a group going to Montreal, Canada (through u-boats!). The work I did there, and the report I wrote on the 'Neptunium Series' resulted in an M.Sc., I believe in '47. I had gone on to a Ph.D. in Northwestern University in America and from there to a varied career, retiring from the Univ. of Calif, Berkeley…… in effect, Paneth saved me from the war.


The visit of Dennis Tuck (1929-2003) to Durham in 1995 Ken Wade's Research Group produced this erudite survey of the life and times of the Londonderry Laboratory.

Read the two instalments of “A Memoir concerning the Londonderry Laboratory for Radiochemistry at the University of Durham” here (pages 01-14) and here (pages 15-21).


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