Peter Day (1938 - 2020)#

Academia Europaea is greatly saddened to announce the death of Professor Peter Day FRS FRSC FInstP, Honorary Fellow, on 19 May 2020. Professor Peter Day was member of the Academy since 1992. He was a valued member of the Board and Council of Academia Europaea and for a long time the AE Honorary Treasurer of the Academy.

Prof. Peter Day was a distinguished Chemist, Emeritus Professor at University College London and Emeritus Fullerian Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution, London.

Born in a family of modest origin in a small village in Kent, Peter Day was educated in a grammar school in Maidstone. He obtained a PhD degree at Wadham College, Oxford under the supervision of Prof. Robert Williams FRS, a famous bioinorganic chemist. He was a pioneer in materials chemistry, interested in the physical properties of new inorganic and molecular compounds and in the best way to model and to explain them theoretically. His work with Melvin Robin on mixed valence systems, known as the “Robin and Day classification”, starting with Prussian blue “the grand-daddy of all mixed valence compounds”, is a remarkable scientific piece, highly cited, still fully operative among modern researchers.[1] Peter was known to design elegant sophisticated experiments and the theoretical models useful to interpret them: optics, spectroscopy, magnetism, (super) conductivity of molecular or solid state systems. Prof. Day was appointed at different positions at the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory at Oxford University and at Saint-John’s college. (1963-1988). He moved to Grenoble and became Director of the European high flux neutron source (Institut Laue-Langevin, 1988-1991) and faced there the heavy repairs and the shut-down of the neutron reactor. He was then appointed Director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain (1991-1998), a respected British Institution since Davy and Faraday, dedicated to “public understanding of science”. [2] [3] The “Friday Evening Lectures” and “Christmas Lectures” are celebrated events. Prof. Peter Day was at the same time head of the Davy Faraday Research Laboratory and Fullerian Professor of Chemistry. He then became Emeritus Professor at University College London.

During 40 years of active research, Prof. Peter Day published many outstanding results in around 700 articles, in collaboration with numerous groups in UK, the US, Europe, India and Japan. He published books gathering his most important works.[4]

Peter Day was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1986, Fellow of the Royal Society in Chemistry in 1996 and Fellow of the Institute of Physics. He has received awards from the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). The RSC award in materials chemistry bears his name.[5] Prof Peter Day has served many National, European and International agencies and institutions, both professional and governmental. Prof P. Day holds numerous honorary degrees and fellowships from different universities and academies of sciences in the world.[6] [7] [8]

He presented many scientific lectures worldwide. In an elegant, pleasant, critical and inimitable style, he shared his views about science, scientists and laboratories and about his own scientific trajectory in several books. [2] [3] [9] [10]

Prof. Peter Day was elected at Academia Europaea in 1992, in the Chemical Sciences section. He had particular links with Academia Europaea, acting as treasurer in 1999-2010 and as trustee in 2004-2010. There, his long experience of managing important laboratories and bodies, meeting ordinary and remarkable people, and serving British and European academic and funding Institutions were precious skills enabling him to tackle cleverly and to solve wisely, efficiently, economic and organisational problems. Without departing from his unforgettable humour.

He will be sadly missed.

Michel Verdaguer and Graham Hutchings, Class chair of the Chemical sciences section

[1] Robin, Melvin B. and Day, Peter, "Mixed Valence Chemistry", Advances in Inorganic Chemistry and Radiochemistry, 1967, volume 10, pages 247–422.
[2] P. Day, Nature not mocked, Places, People and Science, Imperial College Press, Singapore, 2005.
[3] P. Day, The philosopher’s Tree, Michael Faraday’s life and work in his own words, Institute of Physics Publishing, London, 1999.
[4] P. Day, Molecules into materials: case studies in materials chemistry, mixed valency, magnetism and superconductivity, World Scientific Publishing, Singapore, 2007.
[9] a) P. Day, On the cucumber tree, The Grimsay Press, Edinburgh 2012; b) Book review: M. Verdaguer, On the cucumber tree, European Review, 22 (3), 538-41, 2014
[10] P. Day, Scientific Tourism, Some places on the way, independently published, 2019

Read also the review of Peter Day's memoir On the Cucumber Tree which gives an opportunity to get acquainted with Peter's life and achievements:

European Review, review of Peter Day's memoir On the Cucumber Tree, 2014, by Michel Verdaguer: doi:10.1017/S1062798714000313, On the Cucumber Tree

On the Cucumber Tree
Peter Day
The Grimsay Press, Glasgow, 2012
ISBN 978-1-84530-119-4

The European Review, the journal of Academia Europaea, is accessible for all members via the AE website.


Obituaries(info) by European Institute of Molecular Magnetism, the German molecular magnetism community
St John's College, Oxford
Wadham College, University of Oxford
Oxford Mail

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