Peter Atkins

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Peter Atkins (Professor Peter Atkins), born 10 August 1940, is a chemist and former SmithKline Beecham Fellow and Tutor in Physical Chemistry at Oxford's Lincoln College. He retired as professor from Lincoln College in 2007, where he had worked since 1965. He was acting rector of the college in 2007 before his retirement and served on the finance committee. He initially researched the application of quantum physics to chemical problems and theoretical aspects of magnetic resonance before becoming a full-time academic writer. [1] His chemistry books are used throughout the world as educational textbooks. He has written over 70 books and was in the Times Higher Education Supplement’s top 11 earning academic writers in 2006. [2]

He is member of the Royal Institution and was previously a council member. [3]

Science Media Centre

Atkins was married to Professor Susan Greenfield, self proclaimed ‘mid-wife’ to the Science Media Centre between 1991-2003. [4] Tony Blair invited the couple for a weekend stay at Chequers when he was prime minister. [5] He was a member of the scientific advisory board between 2002-2012.

Views on science

Atkins is an outspoken atheist and a member of several secular societies. He has taken part in numerous debates and given talks on the incompatibility of science and religion. He is a great believer in the competence of science and part of a group of scientists that writer Bryan Appleyard described as AlScientism due to their belief in “the omnicompetence of science”. Appleyard wrote a book questioning whether science was a force for good and received considerable criticism from the scientific community in the media. [6] Atkins has said that "the public is well served by scientists prepared to spend time exposing scientific nonsense . . . they should be applauded for acting as warriors against claptrap", this was in relation to claims about food having health benefits by companies highlighted in a Sense about Science report. [7] He has also been outspoken in criticism of funding for alternative medicine and other things he considers unscientific, such as telepathy. [8]



  • 1964-65: Harkness fellow, University of California
  • 1965-96: University lecturer in physical chemistry, University of Oxford
  • 1996-2007: Professor of chemistry, University of Oxford
  • 1965-2007: Fellow and tutor, Lincoln College, University of Oxford (acting rector 2007)

Affiliations, awards and publications


Visiting professor: China, France, Israel, Japan, New Zealand

Advisory board Project Reason: non-profit organization spreading secular thinking [11]

Distinguished Supporter: British Humanist Association [12]

Partner: OCCTOPUS (Oxford Colon Cancer Trust charity) [13]



  • 1969: Royal Society of Chemistry’s Meldola Medal
  • 1992: Honorary DSc University of Utrecht
  • 1999: Nyholm lecture and medal
  • 2002: Honorary DSc University of Leicester
  • 2003: Literaturpreis des Fonds der Chemischen Industrie
  • 2006: Honorary professor Mendeleyev University Moscow
  • 2008: Institute of Chemistry of Ireland Award
  • 2009: Honorary DSc Kazan State Technological University



  • Physical Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Molecular Quantum Mechanics
  • Atkins' Molecules, Galileo's Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science
  • On Being


  1. Second world conference on the future of science speakers: Peter Atkins Future of Science, accessed 28 August 2013
  2. Jessica Shepherd Shelf-made Wealth Of Textbook Tycoons The Times Higher Education Supplement, 27 January 2006, accessed 28 August 2013
  3. Professor Peter Atkins Royal Institution, accessed 28 August 2013
  4. [Consultation Report] Science Media Centre, p.13, March 2002, accessed 28 September 2009
  5. Simon Mann Science on the brain The Age, 5 May 2001, accessed 28 August 2013
  6. Bryan Appleyard Mugged by the science mafia Sunday Times, 30 November 2003, accessed 28 August 2013
  7. Firms fooling shoppers with 'shoddy science Hindustan Times, 11 October 2007, accessed 28 August 2013
  8. Mark Henderson Weird science annoys boffins The Australian (Australia), 7 September 2006, accessed 28 August 2013
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Professor Peter Atkins Debretts, accessed 28 August 2013
  10. National Secular Society Our Honorary Associates. Accessed 20 September 2015.
  11. Advisory board Project Reason, accessed 28 August 2013
  12. 12.0 12.1 Peter Atkins British Humanist Association, accessed 28 August 2013
  13. Peter Atkins OCCTOPUS, accessed 28 August 2013