The Joseph Chatt Award was awarded for outstanding multi-disciplinary research in the areas which span inorganic chemistry and biochemistry. The award was discontinued in 2020, as part of a series of changes introduced following an independent review of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s recognition programmes.
Born in 1914 in County Durham, Joseph Chatt's first exposure to science was through his uncle (who was Chief Scientist at a steelworks near Newcastle) and through analysis of the interesting minerals found near his home. In 1935, Chatt began his studies at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, graduating with a first in 1937. A subsequent PhD with F. G. Mann centred on inorganic research into halogen, oxygen and sulphur-bridged phosphine-palladium complexes.
During the war Chatt turned down a research post at the University of St. Andrews in order to assist with the synthesis of potential explosives as part of the war effort, specifically 1,3,5,7-tetranitronapthalene, which he found to be fairly ineffective. Following a short stint at the Woolwich Arsenal's research department, Chatt's evacuation to the University College at Swansea forced him to replace practical research with reading resulting in a new interest in olefin complexes. After returning to the Woolwich Arsenal for a short period he left to work as Deputy Chief Chemist at Peter Spence and Sons Ltd, Widnes, where he made his dissatisfaction with the standard of research so clear that the factory owner tasked him with improving the whole factory!
In 1946 Chatt started research at Imperial College; however, the facilities led him to seek employment elsewhere and he soon became Head of the Inorganic Chemistry department, of which he was the only initial member, at ICI Butterwick Research Laboratories. Here he finally began his research on olefin complexes and coordination chemistry as a whole. His 15 years here led to a revival in inorganic chemistry including key developments in organometallic chemistry, a field that greatly impacted the chemical industry. His later leadership as director of a new Unit of Nitrogen Fixation saw the centre become world leading, and interdisciplinary research developed links between transition metal chemistry and biology.
For his work Chatt received a number of accolades, including the Tilden, Organometallic, Liversidge and Nyholm medals, and Fellowship of the Royal Society.
This prize was established in 1995 through generous donations from the Chatt family, industry and others. In 2021, the purposes of this Trust were amended, and remaining monies were combined with other generous bequests and donations to become part of the RSC Recognition Fund.