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History of the Department of Chemistry

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.

John Frederic DaniellDaniell invented the first electrochemical cell, laying down the foundations of the study of electrochemistry and hence influencing the study of Physical Chemistry. Today the cell named after him, the 'Daniell Cell', can be found in Chemistry text books in schools and colleges the world over.

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, King’s was forced to accept that it was unable to sustain the Chemistry Department and in 2003, moves were made for a phased closure. While the visible consequence of this closure was that an undergraduate Chemistry degree was no longer offered, there was never any doubt about the importance of chemistry as a basic science at King's, and high quality chemistry-related research and teaching has continued to thrive within various Divisions of the College until today.

In 2011 King’s announced plans for a new undergraduate degree MSci/BSc Chemistry with Biomedicine  and the establishment of a Department of Chemistry which marks the dawn of an exciting new era for Chemistry at King’s. Both the new Department and degree course were successfully launched in 2012. In addition to chemistry researchers already established at King’s, seven new internationally excellent academic staff were recruited in the inaugural phase and further expansion is expected in coming years. The new Department covers traditional areas of chemistry, including organic, inorganic, physical and computational chemistry and close interactions with other subjects in an interdisciplinary environment.

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