Edmund Hirst

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Edmund Hirst
Born Edmund Langley Hirst
(1898-07-21)21 July 1898
Died 29 October 1975(1975-10-29) (aged 77)[1]
Institutions University of Edinburgh
Notable awards Davy Medal (1948)
Fellow of the Royal Society[2]

Sir Edmund Langley Hirst CBE FRS[2] FRSE (1898-1975), was a British chemist.[3]


He was born in Preston, Lancashire on 21 July 1898 the son of Rev Sim Hirst (1856-1923) a Baptist minister and his wife, Elizabeth Langley. He was educated in Burnley and Ipswich then studied Chemistry at St Andrews University with a Carnegie Scholarship.

In the First World War he was conscripted in 1917, but managed to persuade the authorities to return him to St Andrews University to do studies on mustard gas. For the final year he served with the Special Brigade of the Royal Engineers in France. Returning to university in February 1919 he then obtained his BSc and then gained a doctorate (PhD) in 1921. In 1923 he began lecturing at Manchester University and in 1924 went to the Armstrong College in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Here he assisted Norman Haworth in 1934 when he became the first to synthesize Vitamin C.

In 1947 he moved to Edinburgh University and in 1948 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were James Pickering Kendall, Edmund Percival, Thomas Robert Bolam and David Bain. He served as the Society's Vice President from 1958 to 59 and President from 1959 to 1964. He won the Gunning Victoria Jubilee Prize for 1960-64.[4]

He held the Forbes Chair of Organic Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh and was head of department there from 1959 to 1968. He was knighted in 1964.

Hirst received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 1968.[5]

He died in Edinburgh on 29 October 1975.


He married twice. In 1925 he married Beda Winifred Phoebe Ramsay. She was hospitalised due to mental illness in 1937. The marriage was dissolved in 1948 and he remarried the following year, to Kathleen (Kay) Jenny Harrison. He had no children by either marriage.


  1. ^ Stacey, Maurice (2004). "Hirst, Sir Edmund Langley (1898–1975)". The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/31238. 
  2. ^ a b Stacey, M.; Percival, E. (1976). "Edmund Langley Hirst 21 July 1898 -- 29 October 1975". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 22: 136. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1976.0006. 
  3. ^ Records of the Department of Chemistry Edinburgh University . Accessed March 2007
  4. ^ BIOGRAPHICAL INDEX OF FORMER FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF EDINBURGH 1783 – 2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X. 
  5. ^ webperson@hw.ac.uk. "Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh: Honorary Graduates". www1.hw.ac.uk. Retrieved 2016-04-11.