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Lord Jack Lewis of Newnham BSc, MSc, PhD, FRS Honorary Fellow, 1993; Honorary Doctor of Science, 2004
Bio | Citation

Born in 1928, Jack Lewis graduated from the University of London in 1949 and went on to complete his PhD in Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Nottingham. He lectured at the University of Sheffield, Imperial College and University College London, and was appointed to his first Chair as Professor of Chemistry at the University of Manchester. He was later appointed to Chairs at London and Cambridge. As his career progressed he became increasingly concerned with environment pollution. He has served as Chair of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and as President of the Environmental Industries Commission, the National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Protection, and on national science committees. He has also played a significant role on a number of key House of Lords Select Committees on Science and Technology. He has published over 900 papers and in 2004 was awarded the Royal Medal by the Royal Society.

In 1993 Lord Jack Lewis of Newnham was made Honorary Fellow and this was followed by the award of Honorary Doctor of Science in 2004.

Areas Of Interest: Music
Faculty: Science & Technology

"The Senate of Anglia Polytechnic University has great pleasure in conferring the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science on Professor Lord Lewis of Newnham for his distinguished contributions to scientific research, environmental and higher education policy and university administration.

When the history of British science in the last third of the twentieth century, the name of Jack Lewis will surely have an honoured place. He was born and grew up in the Cumbrian industrial town of Barrow-in-Furness of a shipbuilding family, won a place at the local Grammar School where his passion for science and chemistry in particular was kindled by one Mr. Elwood, his science master. How many of we academics owe the initiation of our careers to a particular inspirational school teacher like Mr. Elwood! (For this reason, among others, incidentally, Jack Lewis strongly believes that the effectiveness of universities is very much conditional upon the effectiveness of the School system - a pointer here perhaps for national educational investment priorities). However he is comfortable with the notion that his career as a academic scientist was rather predictable and probably inevitable, for which the world of science is extremely grateful. From these early beginnings, and, in quick succession he obtained a BSc (London) in 1949; PhD (Nottingham) in 1952; and subsequently, Masters degrees from Manchester (1962), Cambridge (1970) and Doctor of Science degrees in Cambridge (1977) and London (1961): a formidable academic pedigree indeed.

Between 1954 and 1961, he held lecturing positions at Sheffield, Imperial College and University College London, where working with Professor Nyholm he became a founding father of the establishment of inorganic chemistry as a substantial field of study in British science (hitherto, the organic chemists had ruled the roost!) During this period, he established what were to become the principal foci of his chemistry research for the rest of his career and foci for which he gained world-wide eminence. These encompassed various specialisms such as: the magnetic properties of metal complex compounds; two and three dimensional inter-metallic chains; transitional metal chemistry; electro-magnetism; cluster chemistry; and metal acetylene polymers.

In 1961, he was appointed to his first chair, in Manchester, closely followed by subsequent chairs at University College, London in 1967 and Cambridge in 1970, where he stayed until his retirement in 2001. These positions were paralleled by prestigious Visiting Professorships in Sheffield, Waterloo (Canada), Strasbourg, Munich and London and membership of national boards and councils of sundry scientific bodies, including the Science Research Council; Science and Engineering Research Council; Royal Society (Vice President 1983-84); Council for Industry and Higher Education (1985-1994); Royal Society of Chemistry (President 1986-1988) and the University Grants Committee Physical Sciences Committee (1973-1979). It will not have escaped the notice of the discerning listener, that these bodies are the principal engines of academic and scientific progress in Britain, which gives an indication of his sphere of influence. To this already impressive list we must also add a vast array of medals (normally gold, it must be added), memberships of many other national scientific academies and societies, and Distinguished Lectures in most major higher education systems. Throughout his career, he has published over 900 papers in the leading scientific journals - enough for at least four normal academic lifetimes!

It was no surprise therefore when Jack Lewis was knighted in 1982 and ennobled in 1989, clearly for his massive contributions to science, but also, one suspects, for his growing eminence in the field of issues relating to environmental pollution, where he was able to apply his chemistry to one of the big problem areas of our age. He recalls incidentally, some highly questionable practices in the chemical industry in his native Barrow when a boy - which were of no great public concern at the time. However, it must be the case that these youthful experiences also have been a significant formative influence on his subsequent interests. His scientific concerns here have been in relation to water and air pollution, vehicle emissions, the ozone layer, global warming, population expansion, structural safety, and the design of monitoring and remedial scientific techniques. However, he has been able to exercise a formidable influence on national policy in these domains through, inter alia, his Chairmanship of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (1986-1992); Presidency of the Environmental Industries Commission (1996-2000); Presidency of the National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Protection (1993-1995); and National Science Committee (1986-1998) and his membership of key House of Lords Select Committees on Science and Technology and the European Commission, where he regards the detailed scientific scrutiny of the plethora of EC environmental directives (which now forms 80% of UK legislation on the topic) to be a critical public service. This scrutiny he feels, often exposes the limitations of understanding of some public bodies and servants of some basic concepts of chemistry (like "biodegradation"!), which he perceives to have an potentially adverse effect on the quality of public policy making in this domain.

It must also be pointed out that apart from his attention to these issues, he has played a major role in encouraging science in non-elitist educational circles. He was a founder member of the CNAA Scientific Board and Chemistry Committees; was an ONC-D - HNC-D Assessor for Inorganic Chemistry; has been a highly valued external examiner and adviser for APU's School of Applied Science; and was indeed a very active, rigorous and vigorous Governor of APU from 1993-2001, where we greatly appreciated his broad perspectives and discernment and invariably sage contributions.

If all the above were not enough of a lifetime's contribution to the world of science and higher education, he also founded a new Cambridge College - a rare privilege he shares with various medieval monarchs. Robinson College was the foundation concerned, and he was its first Warden (1975-2001).

The idea of retirement is something of an academic concept to Lord Lewis. He is still formidably active not only in Parliament but as Chair or member of various trusts and advisory boards, such as the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust, the Arthritis Research Campaign, the Cavendish Hip Foundation, and the Onyx Environmental Trust.

Such events as today's are not really new to Jack Lewis, since he already holds eighteen Honorary Doctorates and two Honorary Fellowships from other universities. However, this does not in any way deter us from our privilege of conferring the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science of Anglia Polytechnic University on Professor Lord Lewis, which I now invite you, Vice Chancellor, so to do."

An image of Lord Jack Lewis of Newnham
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