Thomas Summers West

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Thomas Summers West
T.S.West 1976 Macaulay Institute, Aberdeen.jpg
Launch of Scotland Land Use Ordnance Survey Maps 1976. Taken at the Macaulay Institute, 1976
Born(1927-11-18)18 November 1927
Peterhead, Scotland
Died10 January 2010(2010-01-10) (aged 82)
Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England
ResidenceUnited Kingdom
Alma mater Aberdeen University
Awards FRS 1989, CBE 1988, Maison de la Chimie Paris Honorary Member 1985, The Japan Society for Analytical Chemistry Honorary Member 1981, Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1979, Slovak-Czech Spectroscopic Society Johannes Marcus Marci Medal 1977, Society for Analytical Chemistry Gold Medal 1977 Chemical Society Chemical Analysis and Instrumentation Medal 1976, Institute of Chemistry Meldola Medal 1956
Scientific career
Fields Analytical chemistry
Institutions Birmingham University Imperial College London Macaulay Institute Aberdeen
Doctoral advisor Ron Belcher
Notable studentsBernard Fleet, Roy Dagnall, Gordon Kirkbright
T S West Signature.svg

Thomas Summers West CBE FRS (18 November 1927 – 9 January 2010) was a British chemist.

Fellow of the Royal Society Elected Fellow of the Royal Society, including Honorary, Foreign and Royal Fellows

Fellowship of the Royal Society is an award granted to individuals that the Royal Society of London judges to have made a 'substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science, and medical science'.

Chemist Scientist trained in the study of chemistry

A chemist is a scientist trained in the study of chemistry. Chemists study the composition of matter and its properties. Chemists carefully describe the properties they study in terms of quantities, with detail on the level of molecules and their component atoms. Chemists carefully measure substance proportions, reaction rates, and other chemical properties. The word 'chemist' is also used to address Pharmacists in Commonwealth English.



Early years

He was born in 1927 in Peterhead, Scotland and educated at Old Tarbat Public School in Portmahomack and then Tain Royal Academy. He then studied chemistry and obtained a BSc degree at Aberdeen University. [1]

Peterhead town in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, United Kingdom

Peterhead is a town in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It is Aberdeenshire's biggest settlement, with a population of 18,537 at the 2011 Census.

Scotland Country in Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Sharing a border with England to the southeast, Scotland is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, the North Sea to the northeast, the Irish Sea to the south, and the North Channel to the southwest. In addition to the mainland, situated on the northern third of the island of Great Britain, Scotland has over 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.

Portmahomack Village in Scotland

Portmahomack is a small fishing village in Easter Ross, Scotland. It is situated in the Tarbat Peninsula in the parish of Tarbat. Tarbat Ness Lighthouse is about three miles from the village at the end of the Tarbat Peninsula. Ballone Castle lies about a mile from the village. There is evidence of early settlement and the area seems to have been the site of significant activity during the time of the Picts, early Christianity and the Vikings. The village is situated on a sandy bay and has a small harbour designed by Thomas Telford: it shares with Hunstanton the unusual distinction of being on the east coast but facing west. Portmahomack lies inside the Moray Firth Special Area of Conservation with the associated dolphin and whale watching activity.

He married Margaret Officer Lawson in 1952 and had three children, Ann (Cochennec,Yvon), Ruth (Byrd) and Tom.

Scientific career

1970 Prof T.S.West at Imperial College, London. 1970 T S West Imperial College London.jpg
1970 Prof T.S.West at Imperial College, London.

He moved to Birmingham University in 1949 to carry out research in analytical chemistry under Professor Ron Belcher and obtained his PhD in 1952 and his D.Sc in 1962. In 1956 [2] he was awarded the Meldola Medal and Prize of the Royal Society of Chemistry for advances in chemistry. [3] In 1963 he moved to Imperial College in London as Reader in Analytical Chemistry and became Professor of Analytical Chemistry at Imperial College in 1965. He established a world-famous research team that included Roy Dagnall, Gordon Kirkbright and Bernard Fleet who were pioneers in the field of analytical atomic absorption spectroscopy and atomic fluorescence spectroscopy.

The Meldola Medal and Prize was awarded annually from 1921-1979 by the Chemical Society and from 1980–2008 by the Royal Society of Chemistry to a British chemist who was under 32 years of age for promising original investigations in chemistry. It commemorated Raphael Meldola, President of the Maccabaeans and the Institute of Chemistry. The prize was the sum of £500 and a bronze medal.

Royal Society of Chemistry UK learned society

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) is a learned society in the United Kingdom with the goal of "advancing the chemical sciences". It was formed in 1980 from the amalgamation of the Chemical Society, the Royal Institute of Chemistry, the Faraday Society, and the Society for Analytical Chemistry with a new Royal Charter and the dual role of learned society and professional body. At its inception, the Society had a combined membership of 34,000 in the UK and a further 8,000 abroad. The headquarters of the Society are at Burlington House, Piccadilly, London. It also has offices in Thomas Graham House in Cambridge where RSC Publishing is based. The Society has offices in the United States at the University City Science Center, Philadelphia, in both Beijing and Shanghai, China and Bangalore, India. The organisation carries out research, publishes journals, books and databases, as well as hosting conferences, seminars and workshops. It is the professional body for chemistry in the UK, with the ability to award the status of Chartered Chemist (CChem) and, through the Science Council the awards of Chartered Scientist (CSci), Registered Scientist (RSci) and Registered Science Technician (RScTech) to suitably qualified candidates. The designation FRSC is given to a group of elected Fellows of the society who have made major contributions to chemistry and other interface disciplines such as biological chemistry. The names of Fellows are published each year in The Times (London). Honorary Fellowship of the Society ("HonFRSC") is awarded for distinguished service in the field of chemistry.

Atomic absorption spectroscopy Method to identify chemical elements by their absorption of radiation

Atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS) and atomic emission spectroscopy (AES) is a spectroanalytical procedure for the quantitative determination of chemical elements using the absorption of optical radiation (light) by free atoms in the gaseous state. Atomic absorption spectroscopy is based on absorption of light by free metallic ions.

He became Director of the Macaulay Institute for Soil Research in 1975 retiring in 1987 and also became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1979. During this period he worked on a number of Royal Commissions and was Chairman of the Scientific Committee of Sir John May's investigation into the IRA Woolwich and Guildford bombings from 1991 to 1993. [4] He also served as Chairman of Panels I and III on the Royal Society, International Relations Committee during the 1990s.

Macaulay Institute

The Macaulay Institute, formally the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute and sometimes referred to simply as The Macaulay, is a research institute based at Aberdeen in Scotland, which is now part of the James Hutton Institute. Its work covers aspects such as landscape, soil and water conservation and climate change.

Royal Society of Edinburgh academy of sciences

The Royal Society of Edinburgh is Scotland's national academy of science and letters. It is a registered charity, operating on a wholly independent and non-party-political basis and providing public benefit throughout Scotland. It was established in 1783. As of 2017, it has more than 1,660 Fellows.

Sir John Douglas May, PC was a British Court of Appeal judge appointed by the British Government to investigate the miscarriages of justice related to the Maguire Seven and other miscarriages linked to IRA bombing offences.

Awards and accolades

T S WEST 1987 CBE T S WEST 1987 CBE.jpg

In 1987 he was appointed a CBE and made Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Aberdeen University having been an Honorary Professor of Aberdeen University between 1983 and 1987. He was President of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) between 1977 and 1979 and its Secretary General between 1983 and 1991. He was also President of the Society for Analytical Chemistry between 1969 and 1971, and Honorary Secretary of the Chemical Society between 1972 and 1975.

International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry international organization that represents chemists in individual countries

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry is an international federation of National Adhering Organizations that represents chemists in individual countries. It is a member of the International Council for Science (ICSU). IUPAC is registered in Zürich, Switzerland, and the administrative office, known as the "IUPAC Secretariat", is in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, United States. This administrative office is headed by IUPAC's executive director, currently Lynn Soby.

The Society of Public Analysts was formed in the United Kingdom in 1874 and subsequently became the Society for Analytical Chemistry. It was incorporated in 1907.

The Chemical Society was formed in 1841 by 77 scientists as a result of increased interest in scientific matters. Chemist Robert Warington was the driving force behind its creation.

In March 1989 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. [5] The citation on his application read: "Distinguished for his contributions to analytical atomic and molecular spectroscopy. His early work at Birmingham on molecular spectroscopic studies of analytical chelate chemistry was of great importance and included his interpretation of the only known positive colour reaction of the fluoride ion. This reaction has replaced all other spectrophotometric reactions for fluoride. His evolution of the unique conditionally specific reaction between calcium and a new specially synthesised trihydroxytrisazo clathrate cage dyestuff molecule was also outstanding. His work on quartz fibre torsion ultramicrobalances and thereafter on a complete system of ultramicroscopic organic elemental and functional group analysis is also notable. At Imperial College, he created a new research group to work on analytical atomic absorption and atomic fluorescence spectroscopy. Under West's leadership this group very quickly became established as a leading centre of research in these fields. His many contributions included those to electrothermal methods of atomisation, microwave-excited atomic spectral lamps, low-luminosity flames, and atom-trapping techniques. At Aberdeen he has continued work in these fields. He has also contributed to the use of piezo-electric crystal sensor systems for the measurement of minute traces of airborne pollutants. He has collaborated in work on bio-significant and toxic trace elements in the soil-plant ecosystem and on acidification phenomena. West has served widely on many national and international committees and is at present Secretary-General of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry." [6]

Death and legacy

He died in Lincoln County Hospital on 9 January 2010 of heart failure; his wife Margaret died the following day, also in Lincoln County Hospital, from cancer.

In 2012 the Royal Society of Chemistry created the Tom West Analytical Fellowship [7] in recognition of his contribution to analytical chemistry and the first award went to Dr Toby Athersuch in July 2013, presented by two of Professor West's children, Ruth Byrd and Tom West.


He was an editor and publisher of Scientific books and articles including 408 articles in scientific journals around the world between 1951 and 1986 either in his own name or co-written with fellow chemists as well as books that include; New Methods of Analytical Chemistry in association with R Belcher from Birmingham University and C.L. Wilson from Belfast University, 1955. Complexometry with EDTA and related reagents, 1969. Analytical Chemistry 1973.

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  1. "Newspaper Article – Parents died within a day of each other". Aberdeen: The Press and Journal. Retrieved 19 July 2010.
  2. "Royal Chemistry Society former Meldola Medal Winners"..
  3. "Obituary, Thomas Summers West" (PDF). Royal Society of Edinburgh. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
  4. "1992 Sir John May Maguire report into Guilford and Woolwich Bombings. See Sect 3" (PDF).
  5. Cresser, Malcolm S.; Edwards, Anthony C.; West, Thomas Lawson (2018). "Thomas Summers West. 18 November 1927—9 January 2010". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society . doi:10.1098/rsbm.2018.0016
  6. "Royal Society past Fellows". London: The Royal Society. Retrieved 19 July 2010.[ permanent dead link ]
  7. "Royal Society of Chemistry Tom West Analytical Fellowship".[ permanent dead link ].