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Volume 65, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2056-5135


This first part of a two-part commemoration of the life and work of Robert D. Gillard begins with a biographical outline which provides a context for his chemical achievements. He was awarded a State Scholarship and after his National Service in the Royal Air Force he went up to St Edmund Hall, Oxford, to read Chemistry. There follows a chronological account of his career in Chemistry starting with his undergraduate days in Oxford, where a Part II project with Dr Harry Irving on alkaline earth and cobalt complexes proved seminal. His PhD research at Imperial College, London in the Geoffrey Wilkinson group broadened his experience into the then poorly developed chemistry of rhodium and other platinum group metal complexes. Gillard next went to Sheffield University as a Lecturer where he developed independent research while continuing to work on earlier topics. There followed a move to Canterbury as a Reader at the University of Kent. In his particularly productive seven years there with a large research group he widened his experience further, expanding his interests in such areas as the optical properties of transition metal complexes, considering biological and medical relevance, and increasing the range of metals and ligands he investigated. His subsequent time at Cardiff and then into retirement will be covered in the second part of this commemoration.


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  1. Harry Munroe Napier Hetherington Irving’s wide-ranging research interests included structural and solution chemistry of coordination complexes. He moved from Oxford (where he was in Gillard’s time Vice President of St Edmund Hall as well as University Demonstrator in Chemistry) to the chair of Inorganic and Structural Chemistry at the University of Leeds in 1961. He retired in 1971, but in 1976 travelled to the University of Cape Town (UCT), initially for a three month stay. In practice he stayed on in South Africa until his death in 1993. He inaugurated the chair of Analytical Science at UCT in 1979, remaining in that post until his second retirement, at the age of 80, in 1985 (2, 3). Gillard invoked the Irving-Williams Series (4) from time to time, and shared Williams’s interest in matters inorganic, biochemical and medical; R. J. P. Williams was one of the examiners for Gillard’s BSc thesis
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  13. The University’s official information publication reported, in issue 32 of May 25, that “Robert D. Gillard, chemistry, visiting professor from England, was shot Saturday in his office. He was taken to U Hospitals, where he is listed in satisfactory condition. Suspect was taken into custody pending investigation” (14)
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  16. At Cardiff Gillard supervised several graduates of Portuguese universities for MSc or PhD degrees, an early example being Jaime Alejandro Arce Sagüés, whose MSc, completed in 1977, dealt with several ruthenium(III)-diimine complexes
  17. On his return to Portugal he was appointed to the Chemistry Department of the University of Aveiro, becoming a Professor in 1979 and acting as Minister of Education 2001–2002. He published a dozen papers with Gillard over the years 1977 to 1990. These mainly deal with complexes of rhodium(III) and molybdenum(VI); he contributed to three papers in the “Optically-Active Compounds” series
  18. Gillard’s postgraduate student Ray Wootton worked both with Costa Pessoa and with Frausto da Silva in Portugal
  19. Her contributions can be traced through the latest Part, viz. “Preparation and characterisation of new oxovanadium(IV) Schiff Base complexes derived from amino acids and aromatic o-hydroxyaldehydes” (20)
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