Archive by category | Neil Withers

Mercury eyewash, anyone?

I imagine most or all of our readers have heard of Thomas Midgley, the chemist responsible for some ingenious solutions to refridgeration and engine knocking – unfortunately, they were CFCs and tetraethyl lead. Go and read the wikipedia for more on this fairly controversial character.  Read more

ICBIC15: Feeling jaded?

Greetings from Vancouver, where I am attending ICBIC15 – the international conference on bio-inorganic chemistry. As the name suggests, this is the 15th instalment of this series of conferences…or is it? There have been quite a few mentions of a mysterious ‘ICBIC zero’, which happened 35 years ago, also here at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Chris Orvig, the chair, showed us the programme from that meeting during his welcome address – as organizer, he was interested to see that there were no times for any of the talks, just ‘morning’ or ‘afternoon’! The only speaker at that conference who is also speaking this year is (no prizes for guessing) Harry Gray, who is quite a godfather of this field.  Read more

Elemental memories

In order to keep our element writing competition to the forefront in everyone’s minds, I thought I’d re-heat an old post – my first post on The Sceptical Chymist, no less! In that post I look back into the depths of time, at my first ever science lesson in school. Magnesium featured heavily, which is why I’m re-heating the post. The element has already been covered in the In Your Element series ($/£), by organometallic chemist Paul Knochel.  Read more

Moissanite: a boy’s best friend

After writing about Bunsen the other day – probably the most famous person on my academic family tree – I thought that some of the other members of the tree deserved a little more attention. One of the best things about academic family trees is the branches (unless you’re Paul from ChemBark and you’re trying to make a very fancy one for your boss’s birthday) – thanks to things like wars and multiple influences, the tree can branch in a few directions. Two of my branches end up including Bunsen, while another two include Gay-Lussac and Liebig, respectively.  Read more