Keith J. Laidler

Keith J. Laidler
Born January 3, 1916
Liverpool, England
Died August 26, 2003 (aged 87)
Residence United States
United Kingdom
Citizenship Canadian
Fields Physical chemist
Institutions The Catholic University of America
University of Ottawa
Alma mater University of Oxford
Princeton University
Doctoral advisor Henry Eyring
Other academic advisors Cyril Norman Hinshelwood
Doctoral students Joseph Weber
Known for Chemical kinetics

Keith James Laidler (January 3, 1916 – August 26, 2003), born in England, was notable as a pioneer in chemical kinetics and authority on the physical chemistry of enzymes.


He received his BA (1937), MA (1955), and DSc (1956) degrees from Trinity College, Oxford University. His MA and DSc were in the area of chemical kinetics under Cyril Norman Hinshelwood. He completed his PhD in 1940 from Princeton University, with a thesis entitled: The Kinetics of Reactions in Condensed and Heterogeneous Systems, under Henry Eyring. He was a National Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow (1940–1942).


After a decade at the Catholic University of America (1946-1955), he spent the remainder of his academic career at the University of Ottawa (1955–1981), where he served as Chairman of the Department of Chemistry and Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Science. He was the author of 13 books and more than 250 articles.

Laidler was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, who described him "as one of the twentieth-century pioneers in the remarkable progress made in chemical kinetics leading to the development of transition state theory which provides the modern kinetic theory. Laidler's work includes seminal contributions in several areas of the field: gas phase reactions; kinetic aspects of reactivity of electronically excited molecules and construction of potential energy surfaces for such processes; development of treatments for kinetics and mechanisms for surface reactions and solution reactions, introducing modern concepts of solvation through dielectric polarization effects in the treatment of ionic redox reactions and of reactions producing or consuming ions; gas phase free-radical reactions involving pyrolysis and other thermal decomposition processes; and … the kinetics of enzyme-catalyzed reactions."


Laidler’s numerous honors include the University of Ottawa’s Award for Excellence in Research (1971), the Chemical Institute of Canada’s Union Carbide Award for Chemical Education (1974) as well as the Queen’s Jubilee Medal (1977), the Centenary Medal (1977), and the Henry Marshall Tory Medal (1987), all from the Royal Society of Canada, and honorary degrees from Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada (1997) and from the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada (1999). For his work in the history of physical chemistry the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry awarded him its Dexter Award "for outstanding contributions to the history of chemistry" (1996).

Laidler retired in 1981 but continued to lecture as professor emeritus. He died on August 26, 2003. In 2004, the Canadian Society for Chemistry renamed their Noranda Award as the Keith Laidler Award in his memory.

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