Born in Pembrey, Carmarthenshire, Wales, he was educated at Swansea Grammar School (State Scholar 1948) and at King's College London (1st Class Hons Chemistry and PhD; Millar Thomson Medal and Samuel Smiles Prize).
After national service years as a senior research fellow at the Chemical Defence Establishment, Porton Down, he returned to King's College as lecturer in chemistry. After this, at the age of 32, he became Purdie Professor of Chemistry at the University of St Andrews, and six years later he became Forbes Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, during which time he acted as consultant to a number of international companies.
Ten years later, in 1979, Cadogan joined the former British Petroleum Company as Chief Scientist, BP Research Centre. He became its first worldwide Director of Research in 1981 and held the post until 1992, during which time he oversaw the growth of investment in research from $60 million to $450 million. Long before global warming/CO2 attained its current high profile, he initiated a $50 million programme devoted to green issues, reducing BP’s huge energy usage in its processes, including championship and chair of BP’s solar photovoltaic business.
During his career at BP he also served as a Director of BP Chemicals International, BP Gas International, BP Venezuela, Chairman of BP Solar International, Kaldair International, BP Advanced Composites, BP Vencap and chief executive of BP Ventures and the BP Innovation Centre.
Throughout his time at BP he maintained, with generous BP support, an independent research group in the Department of Chemistry at Edinburgh University. The most recent publication from this team was in 2010. For his researches in organic reaction mechanisms, short contact time reactions, reactive intermediates (free radicals, nitrenes and arynes), organophosphorus chemistry and heterocyclic synthesis, he was awarded, while at St Andrews, the Corday Morgan Medal and the Prize of the Chemical Society, awarded to that British chemist under the age of 36 having published the most distinguished research in experimental chemistry. This followed the Meldola Medal of the Royal Institute of Chemistry awarded to the most promising British chemist under the age of 30. While in Scotland, he received the Tilden and Pedler Lectureships of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Later came the Society of Chemical Industry’s Medal for 2001 for "conspicuous services to applied chemistry by research, discovery and invention". Among other scientific advances, he discovered a general synthetic chemical reaction now widely used and known as the Cadogan Reaction.
Awards and fellowshops
He has been awarded Honorary Doctorates at the Universities of St Andrews, Edinburgh, Stirling, Aberdeen, Wales, Aix-Marseille, Cranfield, Durham, Glamorgan, Leicester, London, Nottingham, Nottingham Trent, Sunderland and Wales, with Honorary Fellowships from University of Swansea; University of Cardiff; King's College, London; Imperial College, London and the Swansea Metropolitan University. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng) and of the Royal Society of Chemistry. The latter is awarded to regular Fellows of the Society only in exceptional circumstances, there being only one other such award. While at Edinburgh, in 1976, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society having been created a Commander of The Order of the British Empire in 1985. He received a Knighthood in January 1991. The Royal Society of Chemistry in 2010 awarded him the Lord Lewis Prize "In recognition of his distinguished research in organic chemistry and his wide ranging, distinctive and significant contributions in industry and public service". In 2013, he was awarded the Royal Medal of the Royal Society of Edinburgh by Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh for his, "outstanding contribution to Organic Chemistry through his research, discovery and invention, and the impact for wider academia of his work with the UK Research Councils and industry."
He was a member of the Higher Education Funding Councils for England and was the UK Member of the Board of Governors of the European Union Joint Research Centre 1993–2000. He was a member of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice (1991–1993) and led on scientific issues. A major change in the law enabling widespread as opposed to very limited use of DNA analysis ensued, seen as the most important step forward in crime detection since the introduction of finger printing.
He served as Vice-President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and of the Royal Institution, and has twice been a member of the Council of the Royal Society. He was Chairman of the Science Research Council’s Chemistry Committee, a member of the Science and Engineering Research Council and Chairman of its Science Board. He was a founder member of the Higher Education Council for Wales and was Chairman of its Research Committee. He is a Past-President of the Royal Society of Chemistry. He chaired the Defence Scientific Advisory Council for eight years and subsequently chaired the Defence Nuclear Safety Committee, also for eight years. He was a member of the Board of the Royal College of Defence Studies and the Council of the Royal College of Military Science. From 1979 to 2002 he was visiting Professor of Chemistry at Imperial College, London and from 1979 to 2007 he was Honorary Professorial Fellow in Chemistry at the University of Wales, Swansea. He was Science Policy advisor to the Science Foundation Ireland from its inception until 2006. He was the first Director General of Research Councils at the Office of Science and Technology, from 1 January 1994 to 31 December 1998. His budget in 1998 was £1.33 billion. He was the official responsible for making the case for Science receiving the largest percentage increase among all government departments in the first comprehensive Spending Review for 1999–2001. This set the precedent for subsequent years.
He is the Inaugural president of Learned Society of Wales and has just stood down as chairman of Fusion Antibodies Ltd, a company spun out from Queen’s University, Belfast while remaining a Board member. Until October 2004 he was a founder investor and Chairman of DNA Research Innovations Ltd when it was acquired by the Invitrogen Corporation.
Cadogan is particularly interested in the popularisation of science. He calculates that he has given live lecture demonstrations to over 10,000 school children, and to many more via television. He took part in the first live satellite telecast from London to New Zealand, at which time he treasured the sight of more TV vans outside the Royal Institution than even outside the Arms Park for a Wales-England match. He is a Liveryman of the Salters' Company and a director of the Salter’s Institute whose considerable charitable works are dedicated to the improvement of teaching of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. He is a Freeman of the City of London. He describes his other interests as gardening (preferably looking at his wife at work rather than participating), supporting Rugby football, and being in France.
- Who's Who 2008, p.354
- Who's Who 2008, p.354