History of the prize
The Hickinbottom Prize is named after the chemist Wilfred John Hickinbottom.
Born in 1896, he spent his school years at King Edward's School, Birmingham. Following a period spent at the Royal Naval Cordite factory during the war, he studied chemistry at the University of Birmingham, graduating with first class honours in 1921. Following this, he completed a PhD under the supervision of Professor G.T. Morgan.
His academic career saw him appointed as an assistant lecturer (1924) and then lecturer (1927) in the University of Birmingham's department of chemistry. In 1930, his work in the area of aromatic amine chemistry and carbohydrate chemistry earned him a Doctor of Science degree. He took up readership at Queen Mary College in 1947 during a time of post-war financial difficulty, with 5 pounds of funding offered for a year of research. However, with support from the Institute of Petroleum, Hickinbottom built a research group that investigated the reactions of hydrocarbons.
Hickinbottom preferred a more classical approach to research and his contemporaries noted that he was not very receptive of the emerging electronic theory of organic chemistry. He was however very supportive of the development of high standards of experimental chemistry as shown by his handbook Reactions of Organic Compounds, first produced in 1936 and still treasured in teaching labs today. In 1960, he became Professor of organic chemistry, before retiring as Emeritus Professor in 1963 and later becoming a visiting professor at the University of Khartoum.
Hickinbottom, who married the professional pianist Greta Parkinson in 1953, enjoyed painting and spent hours in the Essex countryside in pursuit of this hobby. Peers described him as mildly eccentric but always a gentleman, demonstrated during his retirement years when he kept an open house in Guildford for the steady stream of former research students who visited.
Up until 2020, the Hickinbottom Award also included a Briggs Scholarship, funded by a bequest from William Briggs' daughter Lady Alice Lilian Thorpe, to support a research student in the winners' group.
The prize was established in 1977 through a bequest from Wilfred John Hickinbottom. 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.