Department of Chemistry

Department of Chemistry University of Oxford

Two distinguished Oxford chemists are among the exceptional scientists newly elected as Fellows of the Royal Society.   

Professor Graham Richards CBE FRS was Oxford’s first Chairman of Chemistry  and served from 1996 to 2006.   Graham came to Oxford as an undergraduate in 1958 and completed his DPhil in 1964.  One of the first chemists to use computers in his work, Graham applied computational techniques to solving quantum mechanical problems in theoretical chemistry at the Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory.  He produced the world’s first colour graphic pictures of molecular structures and went on to become a pioneer of computer-aided molecular design.  Graham organised the Screensaver Lifesaver Project —the largest ever computational chemistry project that made use of idle time on over 3.5 million personal computers – screening billions of compounds in the search for drugs to treat cancer and protect against anthrax and smallpox. 

Graham raised funds to build the Chemistry Research Laboratory; a deal which has grown into IP Group PLC (of which Graham was at one time Chairman) and is now a FTSE 250 company with a market cap of £1.5 billion.  He cofounded Oxford University Innovation, which has generated over £2 billion for the University, and helped to create many successful technology companies.  Graham is currently Chairman of Oxford Drug Design Ltd.  This innovative company is developing virtual screening and searching technologies for drug discovery and has identified a promising new class of antibiotics.

Professor Tim Softley FRS was Head of Chemistry at Oxford from 2011-2015 before moving to his current role as Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Transfer at the University of Birmingham.  Tim came to Oxford in 1977 to read chemistry at Wadham College before moving to Southampton for his doctoral studies, followed by periods at Stanford and Cambridge.  Tim returned to Oxford in 1990, where he made significant advances in two areas of Chemical Physics: determining the properties of atoms and molecules in excited quantum states (known as 'Rydberg' states), and undertaking pioneering experiments into the reactive collisions of ions, atoms and neutral molecules under cold, controlled conditions.