Martyn Poliakoff

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Martyn Poliakoff

Poliakoff during the filming of a Periodic Videos video
Born (1947-12-16) 16 December 1947 (age 75)[3]
London, England[4]
Alma materKing's College, Cambridge (BA, PhD)
Known forPeriodic Videos
Janet Frances Keene
(m. 1969)
Scientific career
ThesisThe matrix isolation of large molecules. The photochemistry of transition metal carbonyls (1973)
Doctoral advisorJ. J. Turner[2]
Doctoral studentsAndrew Ian Cooper

Sir Martyn Poliakoff CBE CChem FRS FREng FRSC FIChemE[6][1] (born 16 December 1947)[3] is a British chemist, working on fundamental chemistry, and on developing environmentally acceptable processes and materials. The core themes of his work are supercritical fluids,[7][8] infrared spectroscopy and lasers. He is a research professor in chemistry at the University of Nottingham.[2] As well as carrying out research at the University of Nottingham, he is a lecturer, teaching a number of modules including green chemistry.[9][10][11][12]

In the late 2000s and early 2010s he was the main presenter for the YouTube channel Periodic Videos.[13]

Early life[edit]

Poliakoff was born to a British-Jewish mother, Ina (née Montagu), and Russian-Jewish father, Alexander Poliakoff (Russian: Поляко́в). He has a younger brother, the screenwriter and director Stephen Poliakoff. His paternal grandfather, Joseph Poliakoff, was a prolific inventor of electrical devices who experienced the communist revolution in Russia first-hand, and emigrated to the United Kingdom in 1924.[14]


Poliakoff was educated at Westminster School[3] followed by King's College, Cambridge, graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1969, and a PhD in 1973,[15] for research supervised by J.J. Turner.[2][16] While an undergraduate at Cambridge, Poliakoff met and became close friends with Tony Judt, who later became a historian and writer.[17][18]

Career and research[edit]

In 1972, Poliakoff moved to Newcastle University and in 1979 was appointed a lecturer at the University of Nottingham,[2] where he was subsequently promoted to professor in 1991.[3] His research has been funded by the EPSRC.[19]

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.[1] His contributions have enabled the development of supercritical carbon dioxide and water solvent systems to replace traditional organic solvents at the industrial scale. As foreign secretary and vice-president of the Royal Society from 2011 to 2016, he worked to represent and further the impact of UK science around the world.[1]

Popular science[edit]

Poliakoff is the narrator in most of a series of over 600 short videos called The Periodic Table of Videos,[20][21] a popular science project produced by Brady Haran, originally intended to familiarise 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.[citation needed] 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.[22][23][24] Poliakoff showed some videos at IUPAC's elements inauguration in the Central Club of Scientists of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.[25][26]

Honours and awards[edit]

Poliakoff was awarded the Meldola Medal and Prize from the Royal Society of Chemistry in 1976.[27] He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2002,[1] Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC) also in 2002,[28] and Fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (FIChemE) in 2004.[29] He served on the IChemE Council between 2009 and 2013.[29] Poliakoff was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours[30] and is a member of the Advisory Council for the Campaign for Science and Engineering since 2008.[30] In 2008, he was elected an Honorary Member of the Chemical Society of Ethiopia[29] and a Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2011.[28] He took up the positions of Foreign Secretary[31] and Vice-president of the Royal Society in November 2011, positions which are held for a fixed five-year period.[32] In 2011, he won the Nyholm Prize for Education.[33]

Poliakoff also received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 2011.[34]

In 2012, Poliakoff was elected a Fellow of the Academia Europaea and in 2013, an Associate Fellow of TWAS, the World Academy of Science.[28] He was elected an Associate Fellow of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences in 2014.[29] Poliakoff was knighted in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to the chemical sciences.[35][36][37][38] 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.[39] In 2017 Poliakoff was elected Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng).[40] In 2019, he was awarded the Royal Society of London Michael Faraday Prize[41] for science communication for his work on the Periodic Videos. He was also awarded the 2019 Longstaff Prize for his "outstanding contributions to green chemistry and for participating centrally in the creation of the Periodic Table Videos".[42]

A tram in Nottingham's tram network was named after him in 2021.[43]

Personal life[edit]

Poliakoff has a daughter, Ellen Poliakoff, a psychology lecturer at the University of Manchester;[44] and a son, Simon Poliakoff, a physics teacher at The Priory School Hitchin. Martyn Poliakoff produced a web eulogy of close friend Tony Judt in 2010.[45]

On Poliakoff's birthday in 2011, his students brought him periodic table cupcakes.[46] Periodic table cupcakes have been used for science and chemistry education since they were first created by Ida Freund.[47]


  1. ^ a b c d e Anon. (2002). "Sir Martyn Poliakoff CBE FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 17 August 2016. 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". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

  2. ^ a b c d "Introduction to Supercritical Fluids". Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Poliakoff, Prof. Martyn". Who's Who. Vol. 2015 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ Perks, Bea (31 July 2014). "The worldwide chemist". Chemistry World. Royal Society of Chemistry. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  5. ^ "Tracking Traffic – Periodic Table of Videos". Material World. 28 August 2008. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  6. ^ "New Year's Honours 2008: CSV – GOV.UK".
  7. ^ 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): 3788–92. doi:10.1002/anie.201100412. PMID 21442710.
  8. ^ 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): 4457–59. doi:10.1039/b806063k. PMID 18802589.
  9. ^ Poliakoff, M.; Licence, P. (2007). "Sustainable technology: Green chemistry". Nature. 450 (7171): 810–12. Bibcode:2007Natur.450..810P. doi:10.1038/450810a. PMID 18064000. S2CID 12340643.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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): 695–99. Bibcode:2012Sci...337..695T. doi:10.1126/science.1218930. PMID 22879509. S2CID 715234.
  12. ^ Martyn Poliakoff publications indexed by Microsoft Academic
  13. ^ Martyn Poliakoff talks about the Periodic Table of Videos on YouTube
  14. ^ Poliakoff, Stephen (28 May 2008). "Ringside at the revolution" – via The Guardian.
  15. ^ Poliakoff, Martyn (1973). The matrix isolation of large molecules. The photochemistry of transition metal carbonyls (DPhil thesis). University of Cambridge. OCLC 500541617.
  16. ^ Poliakoff, M.; Turner, J.J. (1970). "The infrared spectra of trimetal carbonyl species in frozen gas matrices at 20K". Journal of the Chemical Society D: Chemical Communications (16): 1008. doi:10.1039/C29700001008.
  17. ^ "Toast to Tony – Periodic Table of Videos". YouTube. 11 August 2010. Archived from the original on 14 December 2021. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  18. ^ Periodic Videos (7 July 2008). "Ruthenium (version 1) – Periodic Table of Videos". YouTube. Archived from the original on 14 December 2021. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  19. ^ "Grants awarded to Martyn Poliakoff by the EPSRC". Swindon: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Archived from the original on 15 July 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  20. ^ Haran, B.; Poliakoff, M. (2011). "How to measure the impact of chemistry on the small screen". Nature Chemistry. 3 (3): 180–82. Bibcode:2011NatCh...3..180H. doi:10.1038/nchem.990. ISSN 1755-4330. OCLC 4795274937. PMID 21336314.
  21. ^ Haran, B.; Poliakoff, M. (2011). "The Periodic Table of Videos". Science. 332 (6033): 1046–17. Bibcode:2011Sci...332.1046H. doi:10.1126/science.1196980. ISSN 0036-8075. OCLC 4898209818. PMID 21617067.
  22. ^ Chemistry of the World Cup trophy on YouTube
  23. ^ "Professor says World Cup trophy cannot be solid gold". BBC News. 12 June 2010. Retrieved 19 July 2010.
  24. ^ "Doubts raised over World Cup trophy". Archived from the original on 29 September 2012. Retrieved 19 July 2010.
  25. ^ Periodic Videos (3 March 2017). "Elements Inauguration – Periodic Table of Videos". YouTube. Archived from the original on 14 December 2021. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  26. ^ Fedorova, Vera (3 March 2017). "At the inauguration ceremony of the new elements of the Periodic table of D.I. Mendeleev". Joint Institute for Nuclear Research. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  27. ^ Turner, James J.; Poliakoff, Martyn (24 July 1997). "Obituary : Professor Jeremy Burdett". The Independent. London. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
  28. ^ a b c "Martyn Poliakoff". University of Nottingham. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  29. ^ a b c d "Professor Sir Martyn Poliakoff". Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  30. ^ a b "Advisory Council of the Campaign for Science and Engineering". Archived from the original on 28 August 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
  31. ^ Poliakoff, Martyn. "The Royal Society, the Foreign Secretary, and International Relations". Science & Diplomacy.
  32. ^ "Martyn Poliakoff". Royal Society. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  33. ^ "Nyholm Prize for Education 2011 Winner". Royal Society of Chemistry. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  34. ^ "Heriot-Watt University Honorary Graduates". Edinburgh: Heriot-Watt University. 23 November 2011. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  35. ^ "No. 61092". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2014. p. N2.
  36. ^ "Order of the Companions of Honour : Members of the Order of the Companions of Honour" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 January 2015. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  37. ^ "New Year Honours: YouTube sensation Professor Martyn Poliakoff to be knighted for making chemistry fun to learn". Notthingham Post. Archived from the original on 31 December 2014. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  38. ^ "Sir Martyn and the Palace – The Periodic Table of Videos". University of Nottingham. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  39. ^ "RSC Lord Lewis Prize 2016 Winner". Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  40. ^ "Sir Martyn Poliakoff FREng profile". Royal Academy of Engineering. 2 July 2018.
  41. ^ "Recipients of Royal Society medals and awards in 2019 announced | Royal Society".
  42. ^ "2019 Longstaff Prize Winner". Royal Society of Chemistry. Retrieved 10 January 2020.
  43. ^ "Nottingham tram named in honour of Sir Martyn Poliakoff". BBC News. 16 December 2021. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  44. ^ "Dr Ellen Poliakoff research profile – personal details". The University of Manchester.
  45. ^ "Tony Judt Tribute". The Periodic Table of Videos. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  46. ^ Periodic Table of Cupcakes – Periodic Table of Videos, archived from the original on 14 December 2021, retrieved 20 March 2021
  47. ^ Rayner-Canham, Marelene; Rayner-Canham, Geoff (2008). Chemistry was Their Life: Pioneer British Women Chemists, 1880–1949. Imperial College Press, distributed by World Scientific Publishing Co. doi:10.1142/p538. ISBN 978-1-86094-986-9.