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Hinshelwood, Sir Cyril (Norman)

reactions shared prize nobel

(1897–1967) British physical chemist: applied kinetic studies to a variety of problems.

Hinshelwood’s career, except for war service from 1916 working on explosives in an ordnance factory, was spent almost entirely in Oxford. His early research, developed from his war work, was on the explosion of solids, but he soon turned his interest to explosive gas reactions. In the 1920s he made a close study of the reaction of hydrogen with oxygen, which was a model for such research and led to a shared Nobel Prize in 1956. He also studied the rates and catalytic effects in other gas reactions and reactions in the liquid phase. His later work applied the ideas of chemical kinetics to the growth of bacterial cells. In 1950 he made the suggestion, little noticed at the time, that in the synthesis of protein in living cells it is nucleic acid that guides the order in which amino acids are linked to form protein. The suggestion was correct.

Hinshelwood was an expert linguist and classical scholar, and was simultaneously president of both the Royal Society and the Classical Association–the only man, to date, to hold both offices. His own paintings were given a London exhibition a year after his death and he was an expert collector of Chinese ceramics.

Hinshelwood shared the Nobel Prize with N N Semenov (1896–1986) who in Moscow carried out comparable, but complementary, studies on chain reactions, with emphasis on combustion and explosive processes.

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