Cyril Hinshelwood

Cyril Norman Hinshelwood

(1897-06-19)19 June 1897
London, England
Died9 October 1967(1967-10-09) (aged 70)
London, England
Alma materUniversity of Oxford
Known forChemical kinetics
Chemical reaction network theory
Langmuir–Hinshelwood mechanism
Lindemann–Hinshelwood mechanism
Scientific career
FieldsPhysical chemistry
Doctoral advisorHarold Hartley
Doctoral studentsSydney Brenner
Alan Eddy
Other notable studentsKeith J. Laidler (postdoc)

Sir Cyril Norman Hinshelwood OM FRS (19 June 1897 – 9 October 1967) was a British physical chemist and expert in chemical kinetics. His work in reaction mechanisms earned the 1956 Nobel Prize in chemistry.[4][5]


Born in London, his parents were Norman Macmillan Hinshelwood, a chartered accountant, and Ethel Frances née Smith. He was educated first in Canada, returning in 1905 on the death of his father to a small flat in Chelsea where he lived for the rest of his life. He then studied at Westminster City School and Balliol College, Oxford.


During the First World War, Hinshelwood was a chemist in an explosives factory. He was a tutor at Trinity College, Oxford, from 1921 to 1937 and was Dr Lee's Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford from 1937. He served on several advisory councils on scientific matters to the British Government.

His early studies of molecular kinetics led to the publication of Thermodynamics for Students of Chemistry and The Kinetics of Chemical Change in 1926. With Harold Warris Thompson he studied the explosive reaction of hydrogen and oxygen and described the phenomenon of chain reaction. His subsequent work on chemical changes in the bacterial cell proved to be of great importance in later research work on antibiotics and therapeutic agents, and his book, The Chemical Kinetics of the Bacterial Cell was published in 1946, followed by Growth, Function and Regulation in Bacterial Cells in 1966. In 1951 he published The Structure of Physical Chemistry. It was republished as an Oxford Classic Texts in the Physical Sciences by Oxford University Press in 2005.

The Langmuir-Hinshelwood process in heterogeneous catalysis, in which the adsorption of the reactants on the surface is the rate-limiting step, is named after him. He was a senior research fellow at Imperial College London from 1964 to 1967.

Awards and honours

In addition to being named the second Dr. Lee's Professor of Chemistry at Oxford, Hinshelwood was elected Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1929,[1] serving as president from 1955 to 1960. He was knighted in 1948 and appointed to the Order of Merit in 1960. With Nikolay Semenov of the USSR, Hinshelwood was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1956 for his researches into the mechanism of chemical reactions. He was also an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,[6] the United States National Academy of Sciences,[7] and the American Philosophical Society.[8]

Hinshelwood was president of the Chemical Society, the Royal Society,[1] the Classical Association, and the Faraday Society, and received numerous awards and honorary degrees.[citation needed]

Personal life

Hinshelwood never married. He was fluent in seven classical and modern languages and his main hobbies were painting, collecting Chinese pottery, and foreign literature. As an artist, Hinshelwood painted scenes in Oxford, as well as portraits of Oxford University people including Harold Hartley,[9] his doctoral supervisor, and Herbert Blakiston, the President of Trinity College.[10] The portrait of Hartley is now owned by the Royal Society,[9] and that of Blakiston is owned by Trinity College, as are a number of Hinshelwood's other paintings.[11][12][13]

He died, at home, on 9 October 1967. In 1968 his Nobel Prize medal was sold by his estate to a collector, who then sold it in 1976 for $15,000.[14] In 2017 his Nobel Prize medal was sold at auction for $128,000.[15]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Thompson, H. (1973). "Cyril Norman Hinshelwood 1897–1967". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 19: 375–431. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1973.0015. PMID 11615727. S2CID 12385145.
  2. ^ Hinshelwood Archives at the Royal Society
  3. ^ Cyril Norman Hinshelwood on Edit this at Wikidata
  4. ^ Cullis, C. F. (1945). "Obituary: Cyril Norman Hinshelwood, Kt., O.M., M.A., D.Sc., F.R.S., 1897?1967". Journal of the Chemical Society (Resumed): X001–X002. doi:10.1039/JR945000X001.
  5. ^ Rowlinson, J. S. (2004). "The wartime work of Hinshelwood and his colleagues". Notes and Records of the Royal Society. 58 (2): 161–175. doi:10.1098/rsnr.2004.0050. PMID 15209074.
  6. ^ "Cyril Norman Hinshelwood". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  7. ^ "Cyril Hinshelwood". Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  8. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  9. ^ a b "Harold Hartley (1878–1972) - Art UK". Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  10. ^ "Herbert E. D. Blakiston (1862–1942), President of Trinity College - Art UK". Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  11. ^ "The Dolphin Yard Laboratory". Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  12. ^ "The Observatory Gardens, The Parks, Oxford". Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  13. ^ "Michael Seakins - Art UK". Retrieved 1 December 2022.
  14. ^ "Nashua Telegraph". 8 March 1976. p. 20.
  15. ^ Watson, Norman. "Scientists prize-winning work revealed by rare Nobel medal".
Professional and academic associations Preceded byLord Adrian 50th President of the Royal Society 1955–1960 Succeeded byHoward Florey