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John C. Polanyi

John C. PolanyiAKA John Charles Polanyi

Born: 23-Jan-1929
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Chemist

Nationality: Canada
Executive summary: Infrared chemiluminescence

Canadian chemist John C. Polanyi studied the molecular mechanisms of chemical reactions, pioneered the use of infrared chemiluminescence, and won the Nobel Prize in 1986. He proposed a chemical laser, operating on the principles and properties of hydrogen-chlorine reactions and similar chemical reactions, leading to George Pimentel's development of the high-power chemical laser. Polanyi's Nobel Prize-winning paper was rejected at the scientific journal Physical Review Letters, before being published in Journal of Chemical Physics in September 1960. His father, Michael Polanyi, was a well-known professor of chemistry and philosophy, and his uncle was the economist Karl Polanyi.

Father: Michael Polanyi (chemist-philosopher, b. 11-Mar-1891, d. 22-Feb-1976)
Mother: Magda Elizabeth Kemeny Polanyi (m. 22-Feb-1921)
Brother: George Polanyi (economist)
Wife: Anne Sue Ferrar Davidson (musician, m. 1958, one daughter, one son)
Daughter: Margaret Alexander Polanyi (reporter, b. 1961)
Son: Michael Ferrar (medical researcher, b. 1963)

    High School: Manchester Grammar School, Manchester, England (1946)
    University: BS Chemistry, University of Manchester (1949)
    University: MS Chemistry, University of Manchester (1950)
    University: PhD Chemistry, University of Manchester (1952)
    Scholar: National Research Council Laboratories, Ottawa (1952-54)
    Fellow: Princeton University (1954-56)
    Lecturer: Chemistry, University of Toronto (1956-57)
    Teacher: Chemistry, University of Toronto (1957-62)
    Professor: Chemistry, University of Toronto (1962-74)
    Professor: University Professor, University of Toronto (1974-)

    Marlow Medal of the Faraday Society 1962
    E. W. R. Steacie Prize 1965
    CIC Noranda Award 1967
    British Chemical Society Award 1971
    Order of Canada Officer, 1974
    RSC Henry Marshall Tory Medal 1977
    ACE Ira Remsen Award 1978
    Guggenheim Fellowship 1979-80
    Order of Canada Companion, 1979
    Wolf Prize in Chemistry 1982 (with George C. Pimentel)
    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1986 (with Dudley R. Herschbach and Yuan T. Lee)
    CCA Izaak Walton Killam Prize 1988
    Royal Medal 1989
    RSC Michael Polanyi Medal 1989
    Bakerian Prize 1994
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences Foreign Member, 1976
    Canadian Centre for Arms Control and Disarmament
    Canadian Committee of Scientists and Scholars
    Chemical Institute of Canada 1991
    Knights of Malta 1987
    National Academy of Sciences Foreign Associate, 1978
    Ontario Laser and Lightwave Research Centre Board of Directors, 1988-92
    Pontifical Academy of Sciences 1986
    Queen's Privy Council for Canada 1992
    Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts Foreign Member, 1992
    Royal Society 1971
    Royal Society of Canada 1966
    Royal Society of Chemistry 1991
    Royal Society of Edinburgh 1988
    Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship, 1959-63
    Russian Academy of Sciences Foreign Member, 1999
    Steacie Institute Board of Directors, 1991-
    Hungarian Ancestry (maternal and paternal)
    Jewish Ancestry (maternal and paternal)

Official Website:

Author of books:
The Dangers of Nuclear War (1979, with Franklyn Griffiths)

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