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Jack D Dunitz
emeritus professor of chemical crystallography at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich


I am not sure that I was ever inspired to take up science – I think rather that I just somehow fell into it. At school, I was best in the class at mathematics, but I was also the best in other subjects as well. We had a good chemistry teacher, who made chemistry interesting. So against the wishes of our headmaster, who wanted us to do classics, three boys in my class went to the University of Glasgow to study chemistry.

I suppose that medicine would have been another possibility, but I knew it was not for me. After Glasgow, chance events took me to Oxford and Pasadena, and then to Washington DC and the Royal Institution in London, before bringing me to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. I have spent almost 50 years there, in teaching and in research. Everywhere I have found wonderful friends and colleagues.

As I grew older, I had the privilege of bright, intelligent and skilful students, who brought me into new avenues of research and taught what I needed to know about them. Never have I thought of science as a vocation – it has always been an occupation, which provides problems that are interesting and gives me a satisfying feeling when I find the solution.

What a privilege, to have been supported during a long life by a generous society, which permitted me to spend my days in scientific research!

Jack Dunitz is author of X-Ray Analysis and the Structure of Organic Molecules (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)), and coauthor of Reflections on Symmetry in Chemistry…and Elsewhere (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)).