John Wilfrid Linnett

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John Wilfrid Linnett
Born 3 August 1913
Died 7 November 1975
Fields Chemist
Institutions University of Cambridge
University of Oxford
Notable students Keith R. Jennings
Peter Jaffrey Wheatley
Graham Dixon-Lewis

John Wilfrid Linnett FRS[1] (3 August 1913 — 7 November 1975) was Vice-Chancellor at the University of Cambridge from 1973 to 1975. He was for many years a Fellow of the Queen's College, Oxford, and a demonstrator in Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Oxford.

He was born on 3 August 1913 in Coventry in England and educated at King Henry VIII School and St Johns College, University of Oxford, and was later a Junior Fellow there. He was appointed Professor of Physical Chemistry at Cambridge University in 1965. He was Master of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, on the Council of the Royal Society, and was President of the Faraday Society. He died of a heart attack in the Athenaeum Club, London, on 7 November 1975, only five weeks after ceasing to be Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge.

Throughout his career as a chemist, he was noted for his wide interests, making substantial contributions in theoretical chemistry, mass spectrometry, explosion limits, atom recombination reactions, combustion, and several other areas.

In 1960, Linnett originated a modification to the octet rule, originally proposed by G.N. Lewis, concerning valency electrons. He proposed that the octet should be considered as a double quartet of electrons rather than as four pairs, and in this way he was able to explain the stability of 'odd electron' molecules such as nitric oxide and oxygen. This theory was set out in a book "The Electronic Structure of Molecules: A New Approach", published by Methuen & Co Ltd, London, 1964. His general book "Wave Mechanics and Valency" also published by Methuen & Co Ltd, London, appeared in 1960.

The John Wilfrid Linnett Visiting Professor of Chemistry was established in his memory in 1993 at the University of Cambridge.


  1. ^ Buckingham, A. D. (1977). "John Wilfrid Linnett. 3 August 1913 -- 7 November 1975". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 23: 311–326. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1977.0012. JSTOR 769617.  edit
Academic offices
Preceded by
David Thomson
Master of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Donald Henry Northcote
Preceded by
William Alexander Deer
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge
Succeeded by
Dame Rosemary Murray