Alumni engagement and philanthropy

Professor Kenneth Richard Seddon OBE (Staff member from 1993-2018; died on 21 January 2018, aged 67)

A full obituary published on 31.01.18 can be found in The Telegraph.

Professor Ken Seddon co-founded Queen’s University Belfast’s Ionic Liquids Laboratories (Quill), one of the first research centres focusing on ionic liquids, with a world-wide reputation for pioneering “super solvents” capable of dissolving a vast range of substances.

Ionic liquids have wide applications in synthesis and catalysis (avoiding oil-based organic solvents), polymer technology, battery design, and treatment of nuclear waste.

From a working-class Liverpool background, Ken Seddon was born on August 31 1950. His father Richard worked on ships while his mother Muriel stayed at home.

In 1967 he went to study Chemistry at the University of Liverpool, where he graduated with a First and completed a doctorate in 1973 before moving to Oxford University, where he was a research fellow at St Catherine’s and at Corpus Christi College.

He married Elaine Eastwood, whom he met at Liverpool University in 1978; the marriage was dissolved in 1990.

Ken moved to the University of Sussex in 1982, obtaining a BSc (1985) before completing his DPhil (1990). He became Reader in Experimental Chemistry in 1992 and worked with his friend Harry Kroto (who would win a Nobel Prize).  

Dr Seddon left Sussex in 1993 to take up a chair and become director of the Ionic Liquid Laboratories Research Centre at Queen’s, where he expanded one of the key areas of research he had begun at Sussex. He was both founder (and co-director with Jim Swindall) of Quill, which worked with many major companies such as Petronas, Shell, Chevron and Proctor & Gamble. In 2006 Quill was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

In 2011 he came first in the UK in a global listing of the 100 Top Chemists of the Past Decade. In a 2013 Science Museum public vote his research into ionic liquids was named Most Important British Innovation of the 21st Century.

The author or co-author of more than 700 papers and one of Britain’s most influential chemists, Professor Seddon was awarded an OBE in 2015.


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