Leading scientific figures from around the world will attend a symposium this weekend to celebrate the 75th birthday of Sir John Meurig Thomas, Professor of Solid-State Chemistry in the Department of Materials Science at Cambridge.

More than 20 lectures will be delivered by prominent academics in the fields of chemistry, physics and materials science over the course of the event, which will honour Sir John's enormous contribution to the field throughout the last 50 years.

Professor Alison Richard, Vice-Chancellor of the University, and Professor Lord Rees of Ludlow, President of the Royal Society, will speak at the opening ceremony, and the opening lecture will be delivered by Nobel Laureate Professor Ahmed Zewail.

The event will also include a private organ recital at King's College Chapel, delivered by Daniel Hyde, Director of Chapel Music at Jesus College, and a feast at Peterhouse, of which Sir John is a former Master.

A book celebrating Sir John's life and work will be launched by Lord Lewis, one of his former colleagues, at the symposium. Turning Points in Solid-State, Materials and Surface Science surveys the scientific exploration of solid materials, including key turning points in the field's history and more recent developments. Sir John has been responsible for many of these advances. The books contributors are all leading international experts in the field.

Sir John has published over 950 research papers, 25 patents and two definitive university monographs on heterogeneous catalysis, on which he is one of the world's leading authorities. He is the most cited physical chemist in the UK.

He has received numerous national and international awards, including the Willard Gibbs gold medal of the American Chemical Society, the Stokes gold medal and the Faraday medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Natta gold medal of the Italian Chemical Society, and the Linus Pauling gold medal (for advances in science) from Stanford University. The Russian academy presented him with the Semenov centenary medal, and the Royal Society its Davy medal. In 1995, a new mineral, meurigite, was named in his honour.

Professor Thomas holds 18 honorary doctorates and over 40 honorary fellowships from universities around the world. He has also given over 100 named lectureships, including those in honour of Rutherford in New Zealand, Pauling at Caltech, Stanford and Oregon, and Woodward at Harvard and Yale.

Amongst other roles, he has served as director of the Royal Institution in Britain, the head of the Department of Physical Chemistry at Cambridge University and director of the Davy Faraday Research Laboratory. He acted as government adviser on the Council on Applied Research and Development, and was chairman of Chemical Research Applied to World Needs, part of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

He has held visiting professorships at institutions around the globe, including the Scuola Normale, Pisa, Ecole Superieure, Paris, Cornell and Northwestern Universities, the University of California, Berkeley, as well as South Carolina, Yale, Osaka Prefecture and Jilin.

He is a foreign fellow of many national and international academies, including the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Engineering Academy of Japan, the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rome, and the Hungarian, Polish, Spanish and Third World academies.

In 2003, he became the first scientist in the award's 160 year history to be honoured with the Medal of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion London, for services to Welsh culture and British public life. In 1991 he was knighted for services to chemistry and the popularisation of science.

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