Gas Kinetics Awards

The Polanyi Medal

The Polanyi Medal is awarded every two years, at the International Symposium on Gas Kinetics. The recipient is chosen by the Committee of the Gas Kinetics Group of the Faraday Division of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and is someone who has made outstanding contributions to the field of Gas Kinetics. 

The Michael Polanyi Lecture is the most important lecture given at the International Symposium. The medal was first awarded to Dick Zare in 1979 and the full list of medallists since is as follows:

  • 1979  Richard Zare 
  • 1981  Dudley Herschbach 
  • 1982  Brian Thrush 
  • 1984  B. S. Rabinovich 
  • 1986  Sid Benson 
  • 1987  Fred Kaufmann (posthumously) 
  • 1988  John Polanyi 
  • 1990  Ian Smith 
  • 1992  Jurgen Tröe 
  • 1994  Mike Pilling 
  • 1996  John Simons 
  • 1998  A.R. Ravishankara 
  • 2000  Jurgen Wolfrum 
  • 2002  Gus Hancock 
  • 2004  David Clary 
  • 2006  Horst Hippler 
  • 2008  Piero Casavecchia
  • 2010  Steve R. Leone
  • 2012  Mario Molina 

The Polanyi medal is named after Professor Michael Polanyi, 1891-1976, whose research helped to define the modern subject of gas kinetics and reaction dynamics. A native of Hungary, Polanyi received his PhD from Budapest University in 1917, on the subject of thermodynamics of adsorption. After working in Berlin, Polanyi emigrated to England in 1933 to become Professor of Physical Chemistry at Manchester University, a position he held until 1948 when he moved to philosophy and became Professor of Social Science, also at Manchester. 

In 1959 he became a Senior Research Fellow at Merton College, Oxford. Polanyi published over 200 scientific papers between 1916-1948 on a wide range of topics: adsorption, reaction kinetics, x-ray diffraction to name a few. Polanyi's laboratory at Manchester attracted students and established scientists from all over the world. After the 2nd world war Polanyi increasingly turned his attention from science to economics and philosophy. 

His son, John Polanyi, was a recipient of the Polanyi Medal in 1988.