Biography

Peter William Atkins (born 10 August 1940) is a British chemist and former Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Lincoln College.

He is a prolific writer of popular chemistry textbooks, including Physical Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, and Molecular Quantum Mechanics. Atkins is also the author of a number of popular science books, including Atkins' Molecules, Galileo's Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science and On Being.

Atkins left school (Dr Challoner's Grammar School, Amersham) at fifteen and took a job with Monsanto as a laboratory assistant. He studied for A-levels by himself and gained a place, following a last-minute interview, at University of Leicester.

Atkins studied chemistry there, obtaining a bachelor's degree in chemistry, and – in 1964 – a PhD for research into electron spin resonance spectroscopy, and other aspects of theoretical chemistry. Atkins then took a postdoctoral position at the UCLA as a Harkness Fellow of the Commonwealth fund. He returned 1965 as a fellow and tutor of Lincoln College, Oxford, and lecturer in physical chemistry (later, professor of physical chemistry). In 1969, he won the Royal Society of Chemistry's Meldola Medal. He retired in 2007, and since then has been a full-time author.

He has honorary doctorates from the University of Utrecht, the University of Leicester (where he sits on the university Court), Mendeleev University in Moscow, and Kazan State Technological University.