John Wilfrid Linnett
Born3 August 1913
Coventry, England
Died7 November 1975(1975-11-07) (aged 62)
London, England
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Cambridge
University of Oxford
Notable studentsKeith R. Jennings
Peter Jaffrey Wheatley
Graham Dixon-Lewis
Michael Barber (chemist)

John Wilfrid Linnett FRS (3 August 1913 – 7 November 1975) was Vice-Chancellor at the University of Cambridge from 1973 to 1975.[1][2][3] He was for many years a Fellow of the Queen's College, Oxford, and a demonstrator in Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Oxford.


He was born on 3 August 1913 in Coventry in England and educated at King Henry VIII School and St Johns College, University of Oxford, and was later a Junior Fellow there.

Academic career

He was appointed Professor of Physical Chemistry at Cambridge University in 1965. He was Master of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, on the Council of the Royal Society, and was President of the Faraday Society.

Throughout his career as a chemist, he was noted for his wide interests, making substantial contributions in theoretical chemistry, mass spectrometry, explosion limits, atom recombination reactions, combustion, and several other areas.

Octet rule

In 1960, Linnett originated a modification to the octet rule, originally proposed by Lewis, concerning valence electrons. He proposed that the octet should be considered as a double quartet of electrons rather than as four pairs, and hence the theory became known as "Linnett double-quartet theory". Using this method, he was able to explain the stability of 'odd electron' molecules such as nitric oxide and oxygen. This theory was set out in a book "The Electronic Structure of Molecules: A New Approach", published by Methuen & Co Ltd, London, 1964.[4] His general book "Wave Mechanics and Valency" also published by Methuen & Co Ltd, London, appeared in 1960.[5]


He died of a heart attack in the Athenaeum Club, London, on 7 November 1975, only five weeks after ceasing to be Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge.

The John Wilfrid Linnett Visiting Professor of Chemistry was established in his memory in 1993 at the University of Cambridge.[6]


  1. ^ Buckingham, A. D. (1977). "John Wilfrid Linnett. 3 August 1913 -- 7 November 1975". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 23: 311–343. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1977.0012. ISSN 0080-4606.
  2. ^ Hartmann, Hermann (1976). "In memoriam John Wilfrid Linnett". Theoretica Chimica Acta. 41 (2): I. doi:10.1007/BF01178070. ISSN 0040-5744.
  3. ^ Gray, Peter (1976). "Obituary: Professor John Wilfrid Linnett, F.R.S. 3 August 1913–1917 November 1975". Combustion and Flame. 26: 280–282. doi:10.1016/0010-2180(76)90081-X. ISSN 0010-2180.
  4. ^ J. W. Linnett (1966). The Electronic Structure of Molecules: A New Approach. Methuen.
  5. ^ J.W. Linnett, F.R.S (1960). Wave Mechanics and Valency.
  6. ^ University of Cambridge (8 October 2009). Statutes and Ordinances of the University of Cambridge 2009. Cambridge University Press. pp. 35–. ISBN 978-0-521-13745-4.