The Natural Product Chemistry Award was given for studies of the chemistry of natural products. 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.
The lectures associated with the Natural Product Chemistry Award were known as the Simonsen Lectures. These were previously associated with the Simonsen Lectureship, named after the organic chemist Sir John Simonsen.
Simonsen was born in 1884 in Manchester, where he also studied at Manchester Grammar School and the University of Manchester. In 1910 he was appointed Professor at Presidency College in Madras. In 1914 Simonsen returned to England, where he worked as an oil controller and sat on the Indian Munitions Board. In the same year Simonsen founded and was secretary of the Indian Science Congress Association. After the First World War, Simonsen moved back to India to work at the Forest Research Institute and College as Chief Chemist for 6 years before taking a position as Professor at the Indian Institute of Science.
In 1928 Simonsen spent two years working with Charles Gibson at Guy’s Hospital in London before working as Professor at the University of Wales until 1942, where he became Research Director of the Colonial Products Research Council. In 1944 Simonsen helped establish the Microbiology Research Institute in Trinidad.
Simonsen’s research centred on natural product chemistry, specialising in the hydrocarbons terpenes and sesquiterpenes. His work on mosquito control in British Guiana was also praised for saving the lives of many local children.
During his life Simonsen held several positions and accolades. He was a member of the Agricultural Research Council, a fellow of the Royal Society, received the Ernest Guenther Award from the American Chemical Society in 1949, the Royal Society Davy Medal in 1950, honorary doctorates from the Universities of St. Andrews, Malaysia and Birmingham and was knighted in 1949.
The prize was established through a bequest from the Simonsen family. 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.