Skip to main content

Professor Sir Richard Catlow: oration

Read Professor Matthew Davidson's oration on Professor Sir Richard Catlow for the honorary degree of Doctor of Science in July 2022


Photograph of Professor Sir Richard Catlow on receiving his honorary degree
Professor Sir Richard Catlow

Pro-Vice-Chancellor, it is my pleasure to introduce Professor Sir Richard Catlow, one of the most influential scientists of his generation. Over a 45-year career (so far) Richard has played a leading role in the application of computational techniques to understanding the properties of complex materials. The impact of his fundamental research has been enormous. He has published over 1000 papers and his approaches are routinely used in key areas of academic and industrial research, including energy materials, mineralogy, catalysis, nano-chemistry and surface chemistry. This impact continues to grow, particularly in the context of the global challenge of climate change.

Richard’s scientific career started with a DPhil at Oxford followed by appointment as a Lecturer in Chemistry at University College London. He then moved to a joint professorial appointment between the University of Keele and the Daresbury Laboratory, where he continued his computational programme, but also led the development of the pioneering synchrotron diffraction facilities at Daresbury.

In the early 1990s, Richard moved to the Royal Institution in London, where in collaboration with Professor Sir John Meurig Thomas, he established a new research programme combining simulation with experiment in the study of catalytic materials, an approach that continues to make an important contribution to catalytic science. At the Royal Institution, he also became strongly involved in public engagement, running the Schools programme for over ten years. Richard still lectures regularly to schools audiences and over 100,000 students have heard him speak since 1990.

In 1998, he was appointed Director of the Davy Faraday Laboratory of The Royal Institution and in 2002 Head of Chemistry at University College London, where he also served as Dean. Richard currently holds a joint professorial post between Cardiff University and UCL and continues a successful research programme.

Throughout his career, Richard has contributed to the scientific community, both in the UK and internationally, and his achievements have been recognised by many prestigious awards. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a member of the German National Science Academy, the Leopoldina, of the Academia Europaea and of the World Academy of Sciences (TWAS). He served as Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society for five years until 2021 and is currently co-President of the Inter Academy Partnership (IAP) – a global alliance of more than 140 academies of science, engineering and medicine.

Richard was knighted in 2020 for Services to Leadership in Science and Research. However, behind all of these responsibilities, achievements and honours, perhaps Richard’s most important contribution is as an outstanding supervisor, mentor, colleague and friend. His generous, kind and decisive encouragement continues to have a positive personal influence on the lives of so many aspiring and established scientists in the UK and across the world.

This includes many at Bath where his association stretches back over 40 years. One of his first PhD students, Steven Parker was appointed a lecturer in the Chemistry Department in 1984. Subsequently another early PhD student, Saiful Islam was recruited as Professor of Chemistry. More recently, a former group member, Aron Walsh, spent several years in the Department as a research fellow and Alex O’Malley was recently appointed a lecturer. For over 10 years he has worked closely with me to establish and develop the highly successful UK Catalysis Hub. Thus, his influence has played a major part in establishing Chemistry at Bath as a leading centre of catalytic science and computational chemistry.

In science, public service and education Richard has been an inspiration to many through his originality and clarity of thought and his wise counsel. There can be no better role model and advocate for the future development of science and technology for the benefit of global society. Pro-Chancellor, I present to you Richard Catlow who is eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.


If you have any questions, please contact us.

On this page