Graham Richards

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Graham Richards

Graham Richards Heritage Day 2018 sneak peek 04.JPG
William Graham Richards

(1939-10-01)October 1, 1939[1]
Hoylake, Cheshire, United Kingdom
Alma materBrasenose College, Oxford
AwardsFRS, CBE, CChem, HonFRSC
Scientific career
FieldsQuantum mechanics, theoretical chemistry
InstitutionsPhysical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory, Oxford.

(William) Graham Richards FRS, CBE, CChem, HonFRSC (born 1 October 1939; Hoylake, Cheshire, United Kingdom) was Head of Chemistry at the University of Oxford from 1997 to 2006[2] and is now an Emeritus Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford.[3]

Richards is a pioneer in the field of computer-aided molecular design, in particular its application to the pharmaceuticals industry. He was the founding scientist of Oxford Molecular Ltd.,[4] and introduced a novel model for the funding of research at Oxford University, which has been copied elsewhere.[5]

Richards has published more than 300 scientific publications,[6] including 15 books.[7] He is a council member of the Royal Society of Chemistry and of The Royal Institution, a Fellow of the Royal Society,[4] and has received the Order of the British Empire.


Graham Richards was born 1 October 1939 in Hoylake, England, to Percy and Gwendoline Julia (Evans) Richards.[8][1] Both parents were of Welsh extraction.[1] Richards was educated at Birkenhead School.[9]

University career[edit]

Richards won a scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford, starting his studies there in 1958.[9] Richards received his bachelor's degree in Chemistry with first class honors from Oxford University[2] in 1961.[citation needed]

Richards then studied the electronic spectroscopy of diatomic molecules with Richard Barrow,[2] earning his Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Oxford University in 1964.[citation needed] He continued his spectroscopic work with fellowships in Oxford (ICI Research Fellowship, Junior Research Fellowship at Balliol College) and Paris, France (Centre de Mécanique Ondulatoire Appliquée).[10]

Graham Richards soon returned to Oxford as a research fellow at Balliol College, Oxford (1964-1966). He was promoted to a lecturer at Oxford University (1966-1994), to reader (1994-1996), and to professor (1996-2007). He served as chairman of the chemistry department from 1997-2006.[2] Richards celebrated his formal retirement from the University of Oxford on 18 May 2007.[11] He is now an Emeritus fellow of Brasenose College.[3]

Research & industry involvement[edit]

In the fourth year of his degree course Richard's research project led him to using Oxford's Ferranti Mercury computer to solve integrals.[1] During a fellowship year in France at Centre de Mécanique Ondulatoire Appliquée, he was able to use more powerful computers.[12] Returning to Oxford, he worked on ab initio computations and applied computational techniques to solving quantum mechanical problems in theoretical chemistry, in particular studying spin-orbit coupling.[4] His influential paper Third age of quantum chemistry (1979) marked the development of computational techniques for theoretical analysis whose precision equaled or surpassed experimental results.[13][14][15]

"The work represents perhaps a near perfect instance of theory being in harmony with experiment, each aspect vital to the other and the combination much more than the sum of the separate parts"– Graham Richards[15][13]

Richards saw the potential to apply computer techniques for examining the structure and properties of compounds in the area of pharmaceutical applications. He became a pioneer in the field of computer-aided molecular design. He was the first to produce coloured images modelling molecular structure graphically,[1] and introduced many of the techniques now widely used in academia and industry.[4]

In 1982, Richards became a founding member of the Molecular Graphics Society (now the Molecular Graphics and Modelling Society, MGMS).[16] The society started the Journal of Molecular Graphics in 1983. Richards served as the editor-in-chief of the journal from 1984 to 1996. The journal's name changed to Journal of Molecular Graphics and Modelling in 1997.[17]

In 1989 Richards was the scientific co-founder (with Tony Marchington, David Ricketts, James Hiddleston, and Anthony Rees) of Oxford Molecular Limited. The company developed software for modelling of small molecules and proteins, and drug design.[18] The company was possible in part because of economic and legal changes under the government of Margaret Thatcher that enabled British universities to become involved with venture capital and technology transfer. As Oxford Molecular Group, Ltd. (OMG) the company was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1992, making the university £10 million. The company was worth £450 million at its peak but was eventually sold for £70 million.[1][19] It was one of several companies that combined to form Accelrys in 2001.[20]

Richards was instrumental in raising £64 million to fund a new laboratory for Oxford University through an innovative funding approach. £20 million worth of funding began with an "unusual collaboration" between Graham and David Norwood.[5] Norwood then arranged for Beeson-Gregory to provide £20 million in exchange for half the University's equity share of any spin-out companies emanating from the Chemistry Department for 15 years. In 2003, Beeson-Gregory and Evolution Group merged, later creating a subsidiary, IP2IPO ("Intellectual property to initial public offering".[5][21] Graham Richards became a Non-executive Director of IP2IPO in 2001, and Non-executive Chairman of IP2IPO in 2004.[19]

Through this arrangement the Chemistry Department has contributed over £100 million to the University of Oxford.[9] Richards served as a director of ISIS Innovation Ltd., the University of Oxford's technology transfer company.[6] It became Oxford University Innovation as of June 2016.[22] It has brought around 60 spin-out companies into existence.[1] The Financial Times has described the approach as "the way universities should be financed in the future".[21]:188

Richards also introduced the use of distributed computing in pharmaceutical design. Started in 2000, his Screensaver Lifesaver project exploited idle time on more than 3.5 million personal computers in over 200 countries, whose owners agreed to be involved and downloaded the project's screensaver. Using idle time from these computers, the project's software created a virtual supercomputer that screened billions of compounds against protein targets, searching for possible drug treatments for cancer, anthrax and smallpox.[4][23][24] The project involved collaboration between Intel, United Devices, and the Centre for Computational Drug Discovery at the University of Oxford,[25] headed by Richards[6] and funded by the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR).[25]

Graham formed the spin-out company InhibOx Ltd. in 2001.[26][9] InhibOx applied cloud computing techniques to computational chemistry and drug discovery, and developed a searchable database of small-molecules called Scopius.[27] In 2002, Richards donated his shares, twenty-five percent of the company, to the National Foundation for Cancer Research.[28][23] In 2017, InhibOx relaunched as Oxford Drug Design Ltd.,[29] with a new focus on antibiotic discovery.[26]

As of 2011 Richards joined the Science Advisory Panel of Oxford Medical Diagnostics.[6] Richards is a non-executive director of IP Group plc, having also served as its chairman.[4][30]

Awards and honours[edit]

The Times Higher Education Supplement (2006) considered Richards to be one of twelve academic "super-earners" in the United Kingdom.[1][31] Times magazine's first Eureka issue (2010) included Richards in its list of the top 100 British scientists.[32]

Richards' work has been acknowledged through a number of more formal awards and honours, including the following:

Selected books[edit]

  • Richards, W. G. (1976). Quantum pharmacology (1st ed.). London ; Boston: Butterworths. ISBN 9780408709507.
  • Richards, W. Graham (1986). The problems of chemistry. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780192191915.
  • Richards, W. Graham, ed. (1989). Computer-aided molecular design. London: IBC Technical Services. ISBN 0895737388.
  • Grant, Guy H.; Richards, W. Graham (1995). Computational chemistry (1st ed.). Oxford [England]: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198557401.
  • Richards, W. Graham (2008). Spin-outs : creating businesses from university intellectual property (PDF). Petersfield, Hampshire: Harriman House. ISBN 9781905641987.[1]
  • Richards, Graham (2011). 50 years at Oxford. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse. ISBN 9781456778613.[41]


Richards was married to his first wife, Jessamy Kershaw on December 12, 1970. She died of cancer in November 1988. As of October 5, 1996, Richards married Mary Elizabeth Phillips, director of research planning at University College London. He has two sons and three stepchildren.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Nordling, Linda (9 Feb 2009). "Spin-out doctor". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d Howard, Brian J.; Grant, Guy H. (18 November 2009). "(William) Graham Richards". Molecular Physics. 101 (17): 2647–2657. doi:10.1080/00268970310001605741. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d "Professor Graham Richards in top 100 British Scientists list". Brasenose College. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Graham Richards". The Royal Society. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Owen, Geoffrey; Hopkins, Michael M. (2016). Science, the State and the City: Britain's Struggle to Succeed in Biotechnology. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198728009. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d "Graham Richards Joins Science Advisory Panel at Oxford Medical Diagnostics". Biospace. Jan 24, 2011. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  7. ^ "Make money without losing your soul". Harriman House. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  8. ^ Entry in Register of Births for Wirral 4th qtr of 1939 vol 8a page 1143 William G born to Richards and Evans
  9. ^ a b c d Richards, Graham (October 2017). "The Lucky Chemist". Periodic the Magazine of the Department of Chemistry. University of Oxford.
  10. ^ "W. Graham Richards". Chemistry Tree. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  11. ^ "An address given by Graham Richards on the occasion of his retirement dinner 19 May 2007" (PDF). The Brazen Nose. 41: 127–129. 2007. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  12. ^ Richards, Graham (2011). 50 years at Oxford. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse. pp. 19–20. ISBN 9781456778613. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  13. ^ a b McDouall, Joseph J.W. (2013). Computational quantum chemistry : molecular structure and properties in silico. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry. ISBN 978-1-84973-608-4.
  14. ^ Yarkony, David R. (1995). Modern electronic structure theory. Singapore: World Scientific. p. 4. ISBN 9789812832115. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  15. ^ a b Richards, Graham (5 April 1979). "Third age of quantum chemistry". Nature. 278 (5704): 507–507. Bibcode:1979Natur.278..507R. doi:10.1038/278507a0. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  16. ^ "Honorary Members of the MGMS Community". Molecular Graphics and Modelling Society. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  17. ^ Willett, P. (2007). "A bibliometric analysis of the Journal of Molecular Graphics and Modelling" (PDF). Journal of Molecular Graphics and Modelling. 26 (3): 602–606. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  18. ^ Sadek, Hassan A. (2004). Bioinformatics : principles, basic internet applications. Victoria, B.C.: Trafford. p. 28. ISBN 9781412025171. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  19. ^ a b "Graham Richards to become Non-Executive Chairman of the Company". IP Group. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  20. ^ Accelrys (April 2, 2001). "Pharmacopeia Inc. Announces Accelrys, a New Leader in Scientific Software - Accelrys to Represent the Best in Software for Chemical and Pharmaceutial Research". Evaluate. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  21. ^ a b Lawton-Smith, Helen (2005). Universities and the economy. London: Routledge,an imprint of Taylor & Francis Books Ltd. p. 188. ISBN 9780415324939. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  22. ^ "Isis Innovation becomes Oxford University Innovation". University of Oxford. 23 Jun 2016. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  23. ^ a b Stoller, Robyn (March 21, 2017). "NFCR-Funded Project in Early 2000s Leads to Progress Today in Computational Drug Design". National Foundation for Cancer Research. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  24. ^ Collins, Luke (2003). "Hooked to computers". IEE Review. 49 (10). Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  25. ^ a b Freemantle, Michael (April 9, 2001). "PC users can help cancer research". Chemical and Engineering News. 79 (15). p. 6. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  26. ^ a b Sansom, Clare (March 2018). "Countdown to the last antibiotic". Chemistry World. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  27. ^ "UOA08-09: Computational chemistry to facilitate drug development". REF2014. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  28. ^ Simpkins, Edward (23 December 2001). "Cancer professor gives shares to charity". The Telegraph. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  29. ^ "Head-to-head with Paul Finn at Oxford Drug Design". The Oxford Trust. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  30. ^ Mawson, James (22 October 2014). "Investment Unit of the Year: IP Group The UK-based investor wins this year's investment award". Global University Venturing. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  31. ^ Shepherd, J. (20 January 2006). "Academics strike gold". Times Higher Education Supplement. p. 1. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  32. ^ "Eureka 100: the people that matter The 100 most important people in British science". The Times (Eureka). October 7, 2010. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  33. ^ "Richard J. Bolte Sr. Award for Supporting Industries". Science History Institute. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  34. ^ "Fellows". The Learned Society of Wales. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  35. ^ "AWARDS". Chemical & Engineering News. 81 (35): 33–34. September 2003. doi:10.1021/cen-v081n035.p033. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  36. ^ "ACS Award for Computers in Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research". American Chemical Society. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  37. ^ Richards, W. Graham (January 2005). "From Diatomics to Drugs and Distributions". Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. 48 (2): 337–344. doi:10.1021/jm040136y. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  38. ^ "REPORT OF DR. LEE'S PROFESSOR OF CHEMISTRY FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31st JULY 2001" (PDF). University of Oxford. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  39. ^ "The Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran Award: Previous winners of the award" (PDF). The Journal of the Foundation for Science and Technology (formerly Technology, Innovation and Society. 19 (5): 23. July 2007. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  40. ^ "Marlow Award Previous Winners". Royal Society of Chemistry. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  41. ^ Jones, Derry (1 February 2012). "Review: Richards at Oxford". Chemistry World. Retrieved 24 May 2018.