Gordon Stone, 1925-2011

April 28, 2011

Gordon Stone is remembered as an inspirational, competitive, driven chemist who had a "boyish enthusiasm" for his subject and a strong desire to help his co-workers achieve their best - something that he considered his "most important contribution".

He was born in Exeter in 1925 and earned his undergraduate degree and doctorate from the University of Cambridge.

He spent two years as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Southern California before joining the department of chemistry at Harvard University, where he rose to the rank of assistant professor.

Professor Stone returned to England in 1962 to take up a chair in inorganic chemistry at the University of Bristol, where he remained until he retired in 1990.

While at Bristol, Professor Stone was elected Fellow of the Royal Society and served as its vice-president. He also received the Davy Medal from the society. His other accolades included the Royal Society of Chemistry's Longstaff Medal and the American Chemical Society's Award in Inorganic Chemistry, and he went on to be appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

After retiring, Professor Stone remained an emeritus professor at Bristol, but moved back to the US to Baylor University, in Texas, where he was appointed Robert A. Welch distinguished professor of chemistry.

In 1998, he was commissioned to carry out an official review of chemistry in the UK academy. His main recommendation - that there should be no more than 20 well-funded world-class chemistry departments - was never implemented.

Selby Knox, pro vice-chancellor at Bristol and a former PhD student of Professor Stone's, remembered him as a "strong proponent of unfettered, curiosity-driven basic scientific research".

Professor Knox said: "He was just a tremendously inspirational man. His fantastic enthusiasm and energy carried everyone along with him. Every new molecule he made he was boyishly enthusiastic about. Chemistry was his life.

"He could be irascible, he could be impatient; he pushed you - and some people needed that - but he always acted in people's best interests."

He added: "He was just tremendous fun to be with, him and his wife Judy. He was great company and a great host as well; if anybody came through Bristol, whether it was ex-students or visitors, he was a fantastically hospitable man."

After a short illness, Professor Stone died on 6 April, three years to the day after the death of his wife. He is survived by his three sons.


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