John Frederic Daniell
Chemistry has been taught at King's since the founding of the College in 1829, when John Frederic Daniell was appointed the first Professor of Chemistry. The first Chemical Laboratory was founded a few years later in 1834. Daniell remained at King's until 1845 and in 1846 the Daniell Scholarship was founded in his honour.
Daniell invented the first electrochemical cell, laying down the foundations of the study of electrochemistry and influencing the study of Physical Chemistry. The “Daniell Cell” can be found in Chemistry text books in schools and colleges the world over.
Today, King's celebrates his work with the annual Daniell Lecture. We were delighted that in 2019 ten Daniell descendants and extended family attended the lecture and marked the occasion by kindly bequeathing to the university an heirloom bust of Daniell, as well as four prestigious medals awarded to him
Development of the Department
A Chair of Practical Chemistry was endowed in 1851 and later combined with the chair of Chemistry in 1870 under Charles Loudon Bloxam. It formed part of the Medical Department but instruction was also provided in the Department of Applied Sciences and in Evening Classes. Classes in chemical engineering in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Sciences commenced in 1930, while chemistry classes formed part of instruction in physiology in the Faculty of Medicine before Chemistry became a discrete Department in 1958. During a national climate of declining student numbers and reduced funding, in 2003 King’s was unable to sustain an independent Chemistry Department. Nonetheless high quality chemistry-related research and teaching continued to thrive, noticeably underpinning areas across King’s Health Partners.
In 2012 a very small, nascent department re-launched within King’s Health Partners led by Professors Roger Morris and Phil Blower. As a cornerstone of a strategic expansion of physical sciences in the university, King’s acquired and fully refurbished a stand-alone, 4-storey chemistry research building, “Britannia House” and the department moved into the Faculty of Natural and Mathematical Sciences. This was accompanied by the appointment of the inaugural Head of the new department, Professor Paula Booth as the Daniell Chair of Chemistry. The department rapidly expanded, investing in talented early career staff to lead research and education. We have staff specifically focussed on education using King’s Academic Education Pathway and support a number of PhD students in chemical education research.
The contemporary Chemistry Department has been very successful and provides an exciting place to explore the boundaries of the subject. With a pedigree as one of the oldest Chemistry Departments in England, King’s Chemistry enshrines the rigour of the discipline in a progressive context. The friendly, vibrant and inclusive department has a distinct focus on the chemistry of life. Continuing expansion will take the department into new areas in chemical biotechnology and bioelectricity, emphasising the importance of computational approaches under the headship of Professor Martin Ulmschneider from 2022.
The department provides a vibrant environment in which to study modern Chemistry in the heart of London. Curiosity-driven teaching integrates all areas of the discipline, applying chemical principles to a wide range of problems in the context of cutting-edge research in Science and Medicine across King’s. The collaborative spirit and emphasis on the cross-fertilisation of physical and biological sciences enables our graduates to harness the transformative power of chemistry and tackle emerging challenges in modern society and medicine.
Heads of the new department
2014-2022 Professor Paula Booth, Daniell Chair of Chemistry
2022- Professor Martin Ulmschneider