Rex Richards (chemist)

Sir Rex Richards
Born Rex Edward Richards
(1922-10-28) 28 October 1922
Colyton, Devon, England[1]
Doctoral students Ray Freeman
Known for
Notable awards

Sir Rex Edward Richards FRS, FRSC, FBA (born 28 October 1922) is a British scientist and academic. He has been Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford[2] and a director of the Leverhulme Trust.


Richards was educated at Colyton Grammar School, then proceeded on to St John's College, Oxford where he was awarded a first class Bachelor of Arts degree in 1945 and a Doctor of Philosophy in 1948.


After graduating Richards stayed at the University as a Fellow in Chemistry at Lincoln College from 1947–64. In 1964 he succeeded Sir Cyril Hinshelwood as Dr Lee's Professor of Chemistry at Exeter College.[3] In 1969, he became Warden of Merton College.[3] Richards held the post of Vice Chancellor of the University from 1977–81 and was Director of IBM (UK) Ltd from 1978–83 and Director of the Leverhulme Trust from 1984–93. He was President of the Royal Society of Chemistry for two years, and the Royal Society awarded him the Davy Medal in 1976 and the Royal Medal in 1986. He was knighted in 1977.[3] He was also Chancellor of the University of Exeter from 1982 to October 1998.[4] A painted portrait of Sir Rex Richards by Allan Ramsay hangs in the Senate and Council Chamber, Northcote House, University of Exeter,[5] and another by Bryan Organ in Merton College, Oxford.[6]

Sir Rex Richards has chaired numerous committees concerned with higher education, including an independent enquiry to investigate factors that might deter young physicians and dentists from choosing clinical academic careers.

Sir Rex has maintained an interest in the art world as well; he was a member of the National Gallery Scientific Advisory Committee from 1978 to 2007 and its Chairman from 1991–1993. In 1981, Richards became a founding member of the World Cultural Council.[7] He was Trustee of the Tate Gallery from 1982–1988 and 1989–1993, of the National Gallery from 1982–1988 and 1989–1993, and of the Henry Moore Foundation from 1989–2002; he was Chairman of the Moore from 1994–2001. He was also Chairman of the British Postgraduate Medical Foundation from 1986–1993.

Richards's research work in the Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory at Oxford was primarily concerned with nuclear magnetic resonance. His early work, leading to the award of a D. Phil. in 1948, was on infrared spectroscopy and was supervised by Harold Warris Thompson.[3]

Awards and honours

Richards was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and won the Davy Medal in 1976. His nomination for the Royal Society reads:[8]

Distinguished for his work on nuclear magnetic resonance and its application to chemical problems. He has made outstanding contributions to the development of this technique, and was the first to apply it to the determination of unknown molecular structures. During recent years he has stimulated other work in the field by his own numerous applications. Earlier, he has done work of high quality in infrared spectroscopy, thermo-chemistry and magnetochemistry and has discovered important information about certain clathrate structures. He was awarded the Corday-Morgan Medal in 1954.


  1. GRO Register of Births: DEC 1922 5b 15 AXMINSTER – Rex E. Richards.
  2. "Previous Vice-Chancellors". University of Oxford, UK. Retrieved 14 July 2011.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Manuscript papers of British scientists, University of Bath, UK. Archived 15 July 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. University of Warwick brief biography, Coventry & Warwickshire, UK.
  5. "Sir Rex Richards (b.1922), DSc, FBA, FRS, Chancellor of the University of Exeter (1982–1998)". BBC Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  6. "Sir Rex Richards". BBC Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  7. "About Us". World Cultural Council. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  8. "EC/1959/18: Richards, Sir Rex Edward". London: The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2014-06-08.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Robin Harrison
Warden of Merton College, Oxford
Succeeded by
John Roberts
Preceded by
Sir John Habakkuk
Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University
Succeeded by
Geoffrey Warnock
Preceded by
1st Viscount Amory
Chancellor of the
University of Exeter

Succeeded by
Lord Alexander of Weedon
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