Martyn Poliakoff

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Sir Martyn Poliakoff
Poliakoff during the filming of his online video series
Born (1947-12-16) 16 December 1947 (age 69)[1]
Alma mater University of Cambridge (BA, PhD)
Thesis The matrix isolation of large molecules. The photochemistry of transition metal carbonyls (1973)
Doctoral advisor J. J. Turner[2]
Doctoral students Andrew Ian Cooper
Known for The Periodic Table of Videos
Notable awards
Spouse Janet Frances Keene[1]

Sir Martyn Poliakoff CBE CChem FRS[3] FRSC FIChemE (born 16 December 1947)[1] is a British chemist, working on gaining insights into fundamental chemistry and also on developing environmentally acceptable processes and materials. The core themes of his work are supercritical fluids,[5][6] infrared spectroscopy and lasers. He is a Research Professor in Chemistry at the University of Nottingham.[2] His group comprises several members of staff, postdoctoral research fellows, postgraduate students and overseas visitors. As well as carrying out research at the University of Nottingham, he is a popular lecturer, teaching a number of modules including green chemistry[7][8][9] where much of his research lies.[10] He is also known for his leading role in The Periodic Table of Videos.[11]


Poliakoff was educated at Westminster School[1] followed by King's College, Cambridge graduating with a B.A. degree in 1969 and Ph.D. degree in 1973[12] for research supervised by J. J. Turner.[2][13] While an undergraduate at Cambridge, Poliakoff met and became close friends with Tony Judt, who later became a widely known historian and writer.[14][15]

Career and research[edit]

In 1972, Poliakoff moved to Newcastle University[when?] and in 1979 was appointed a Lecturer at the University of Nottingham,[2] where he was subsequently promoted to Professor in 1991.[1] His research has been funded by the EPSRC.[16]

Poliakoff is a global leader in the field of green chemistry with a specific interest in the applications of supercritical fluids. These highly compressed gases possess properties of gases and liquids that permit interesting chemical reactions without the need for organic solvents, which endanger both health and the environment.[3] His contributions have enabled the development of supercritical carbon dioxide and water solvent systems to replace traditional organic solvents at the industrial scale. Away from the lab, as Foreign Secretary and Vice-president of the Royal Society, he works to represent and further the impact of UK science around the world.[3]

Popular science[edit]

Poliakoff is the narrator in most of a series of over 500 short videos called The Periodic Table of Videos,[17][18] which is a popular science project, produced by Brady Haran, originally intended to familiarize the public with all 118 elements of the periodic table. The project has since expanded to cover molecules; there are also several special videos about other chemical topics. He hit the news for calculating that the FIFA World Cup Trophy could not have been made from solid gold as it would be too heavy to raise aloft.[19][20][21]

Honours and awards[edit]

Poliakoff was awarded the Meldola Medal and Prize from the Royal Society of Chemistry in 1976.[22] He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2002,[3] Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC) also in 2002,[23] and Fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (FIChemE) in 2004.[24] He served on the IChemE Council between 2009 and 2013.[24] Poliakoff was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours [25] and is a member of the Advisory Council for the Campaign for Science and Engineering since 2008.[25] In 2008, he was elected an Honorary Member of the Chemical Society of Ethiopia[24] and a Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2011.[23] He took up the positions of Foreign Secretary[26] and Vice-president of the Royal Society in November 2011, positions which are held for a fixed five year period.[27] In 2011, he won the Nyholm Prize for Education.[28]

Poliakoff also received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 2011.[29]

In 2012, Poliakoff was elected a Fellow of the Academia Europaea and in 2013, an Associate Fellow of TWAS, the World Academy of Science.[23] He was elected an Associate Fellow of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences in 2014.[24] Poliakoff was knighted in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to the chemical sciences.[30][31][32][33] Poliakoff was awarded the Lord Lewis Prize in 2016 for his work concerning the applications of supercritical fluids, and for his work in the development of science policy within the EU and globally.[34]

Personal life[edit]

Poliakoff was born to an English mother, Ina (née Montagu), and Russian-speaking father, Alexander Poliakoff, both Jewish.[35] Poliakoff has a daughter, Ellen Poliakoff, a psychology lecturer at the University of Manchester;[36] and a son, Simon Poliakoff, a physics teacher. His brother is the screenwriter and director, Stephen Poliakoff. Martyn Poliakoff was a lifelong friend of Tony Judt and produced a web eulogy of Judt in 2010.[37]

Poliakoff's paternal grandfather, Joseph, was a Russian Jew who experienced first-hand the effects of the communist revolution in Russia from the family's Moscow flat across from the Kremlin.[38] Near starvation after the revolution, he was given a government job as a district telephone inspector from an admiring commissar and he helped build Moscow's first automatic telephone exchange.[38] He then fled with his family from the newly Stalinist Soviet Union to the UK in 1924[39][40] Poliakoff was a renowned inventor of electrical devices[41] whose many inventions included a selenium photograph telephony shutter in 1899 (US patent 700,100, 26 August 1901),[42][43] which, along with electrical sound amplification, allowed for synchronized audio on film, the radio volume control, a magnetic induction loop that allowed hearing-impaired people to hear in auditoriums or theatres,[44][45] and the paging beeper.[46] He also founded the Multitone Electric Company of London, England in 1931 that produced hearing aid devices[47] with their most prestigious client being Winston Churchill.[46]


  1. ^ a b c d e POLIAKOFF, Prof. Martyn. Who's Who. 2015 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc.  (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c d "Introduction to Supercritical Fluids". Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Anon (2002). "Sir Martyn Poliakoff CBE FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2016-08-17.  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the website where:

    “All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.” --Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies at the Wayback Machine (archived September 25, 2015)

  4. ^ "Tracking Traffic - Periodic Table of Videos". Material World. 28 August 2008. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  5. ^ Parrott, A. J.; Bourne, R. A.; Akien, G. R.; Irvine, D. J.; Poliakoff, M. (2011). "Self-Optimizing Continuous Reactions in Supercritical Carbon Dioxide". Angewandte Chemie International Edition. 50 (16): 3788–3792. doi:10.1002/anie.201100412. PMID 21442710. 
  6. ^ Bourne, R. A.; Han, X.; Chapman, A. O.; Arrowsmith, N. J.; Kawanami, H.; Poliakoff, M.; George, M. W. (2008). "Homogeneous photochemical oxidation via singlet O2 in supercritical CO2". Chemical Communications (37): 4457–4459. doi:10.1039/b806063k. PMID 18802589. 
  7. ^ Poliakoff, M.; Licence, P. (2007). "Sustainable technology: Green chemistry". Nature. 450 (7171): 810–812. doi:10.1038/450810a. PMID 18064000. 
  8. ^ Asfaw, N.; Chebude, Y.; Ejigu, A.; Hurisso, B. B.; Licence, P.; Smith, R. L.; Tang, S. L. Y.; Poliakoff, M. (2011). "The 13 Principles of Green Chemistry and Engineering for a Greener Africa". Green Chemistry. 13 (5): 1059. doi:10.1039/c0gc00936a. 
  9. ^ Tuck, C. O.; Pérez, E; Horváth, I. T.; Sheldon, R. A.; Poliakoff, M (2012). "Valorization of biomass: Deriving more value from waste". Science. New York. 337 (6095): 695–9. doi:10.1126/science.1218930. PMID 22879509. 
  10. ^ List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
  11. ^ Martyn Poliakoff talks about the Periodic Table of Videos on YouTube
  12. ^ Poliakoff, Martyn (1973). The matrix isolation of large molecules. The photochemistry of transition metal carbonyls (DPhil thesis). University of Cambridge. OCLC 500541617. 
  13. ^ Poliakoff, M.; Turner, J. J. (1970). "The infrared spectra of trimetal carbonyl species in frozen gas matrices at 20°K". Journal of the Chemical Society D: Chemical Communications (16): 1008. doi:10.1039/C29700001008. 
  14. ^ "Toast to Tony - Periodic Table of Videos". YouTube. 2010-08-11. Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  15. ^ Periodic Videos (7 July 2008). "Ruthenium (version 1) - Periodic Table of Videos". YouTube. Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  16. ^ "Grants awarded to Martyn Poliakoff by the EPSRC". Swindon: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  17. ^ Haran, B.; Poliakoff, M. (2011). "How to measure the impact of chemistry on the small screen". Nature Chemistry. 3 (3): 180–182. doi:10.1038/nchem.990. ISSN 1755-4330. OCLC 4795274937. PMID 21336314. 
  18. ^ Haran, B.; Poliakoff, M. (2011). "The Periodic Table of Videos". Science. 332 (6033): 1046–1047. doi:10.1126/science.1196980. ISSN 0036-8075. OCLC 4898209818. PMID 21617067. 
  19. ^ Chemistry of the World Cup trophy on YouTube
  20. ^ "Professor says World Cup trophy cannot be solid gold". BBC News. 2010-06-12. Retrieved 2010-07-19. 
  21. ^ "Doubts raised over World Cup trophy". Retrieved 2010-07-19. 
  22. ^ Turner, James J.; Poliakoff, Martyn (1997-07-24). "Obituary : Professor Jeremy Burdett". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  23. ^ a b c "Martyn Poliakoff". University of Nottingham. Retrieved 2015-04-17. 
  24. ^ a b c d "Professor Sir Martyn Poliakoff". Retrieved 2015-04-12. 
  25. ^ a b "Advisory Council of the Campaign for Science and Engineering". Retrieved 2011-02-11. 
  26. ^ Poliakoff, Martyn. "The Royal Society, the Foreign Secretary, and International Relations". Science & Diplomacy. 
  27. ^ "Martyn Poliakoff". Royal Society. Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  28. ^ "Nyholm Prize for Education 2011 Winner". Royal Society of Chemistry. Retrieved 2012-08-02. 
  29. ^ "Heriot-Watt University Honorary Graduates, November 2011 | News | Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh". 2011-11-23. Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  30. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 61092. p. N2. 31 December 2014.
  31. ^ "Order of the Companions of Honour : Members of the Order of the Companions of Honour" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  32. ^ "New Year Honours: YouTube sensation Professor Martyn Poliakoff to be knighted for making chemistry fun to learn". Notthingham Post. Retrieved 2014-12-30. 
  33. ^ "Sir Martyn and the Palace - The Periodic Table of Videos - University of Nottingham". Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  34. ^ "RSC Lord Lewis Prize 2016 Winner". Retrieved 2016-09-14. 
  35. ^ "Stephen Poliakoff Biography (1952?–)". Retrieved 2010-07-19. 
  36. ^ "Dr Ellen Poliakoff research profile - personal details - The University of Manchester". 
  37. ^ "Tony Judt Tribute - The Periodic Table of Videos". Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  38. ^ a b Poliakoff, Stephen (28 May 2008). "Ringside at the revolution" – via The Guardian. 
  39. ^ Wroe, Nicholas (27 November 2009). "A life in drama: Stephen Poliakoff" – via The Guardian. 
  40. ^ New Scientist. 1978-01-12. p. 97. Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  41. ^ Periodic Videos (27 October 2016). "Geissler Tubes - Periodic Table of Videos" – via YouTube. 
  42. ^ Western Electrician. p. 382. Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  43. ^ The Electrical World and Engineer. p. 299. Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  44. ^ "Induction Loops Around the World Where are we? - Part I–Robert Traynor–Hearing International". 2011-11-29. Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  45. ^ "Patent US2252641 - Method of and apparatus for the transmission of speech and other sounds - Google Patents". Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  46. ^ a b Garvey, Alison (2011-05-09). "Marketing Content Company: Multitone, the inventor of the first paging system celebrates its 80th birthday today". Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  47. ^ "History of T-Coils—General Information". Retrieved 2016-12-05.