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Honorary degree citation - John Polanyi

By: Peter H. Bird, June 1990

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Dr. John Charles Polanyi. Dr. Polanyi was educated in England and obtained his Bachelor's, Master's and Doctor of Philosophy degrees at the University of Manchester. After a two-year Postdoctoral Fellowship at the National Research Council in the Photochemistry and Kinetics Section, now alas, defunct, and a further two-year period as Research Associate at Princeton University, he joined the faculty of the Chemistry Department of the University of Toronto in 1956, where he became Full Professor and, in 1974, University Professor.

Dr. Polanyi has made a tremendous contribution to the characterization of the intimate mechanism of chemical reactions at the fundamental level of molecular and atomic motions. His experiments using infrared chemiluminescence measurements underlie much of our understanding of the constraints on the way chemical bonds may be broken and reformed, while his calculations of the trajectories of the reactant species have given us the theoretical framework needed to complement the experimental findings. He is a world-renowned expert on reaction dynamics, having authored some 180 articles in scientific journals, and has also produced an educational film on the subject. The seminal nature of his work has been recognized by the award of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, shared with Dudley R. Herschbach, and Yuan T. Lee, in 1986.

Dr. Polanyi is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Royal Society of London, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the Pontifical Academy of Science of Rome, a Companion of the Order of Canada, a Member of the National Advisory Board on Science and Technology, and an Honorary Consultant of the Institute of Molecular Science of Okazaki, Japan.

In addition to his Nobel Prize, he has been the recipient of numerous awards, among the more recent being the Wolf Prize in Chemistry, shared with the late George C. Pimentel in 1982, the Isaac Walton Killam Memorial Prize in 1988, and the Royal Medal of the Royal Chemical Society of London in 1989. Dr. Polanyi has been awarded honorary degrees from some twenty universities in Canada and the United States.

Dr. Polanyi was the founding chairman of the Canadian Pugwash Group. He holds highly respected views on the responsibilities of scientists, and has written many articles on science policy. He is co-editor of the book "The Dangers of Nuclear War", exemplifying his dedication to achieving a rational approach to nuclear disarmament.

Mr. Chancellor, it is a privilege to present to you, on behalf of the Senate and by the authority of the Board of Governors, John Charles Polanyi, so that you may confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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