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Hugh Stott Taylor

Hugh Stott Taylor (6 February 1890 - 17 April 1974) was an English chemist primarily interested in catalysis. In 1928, in a landmark contribution to catalytic theory, Taylor suggested that a catalyzed chemical reaction is not catalyzed over the entire solid surface of the catalyst but only at certain ‘active sites’ or centers.[1] He also developed important methods for procuring heavy water during World War II and pioneered the use of stable isotopes in studying chemical reactions.


Early life

Taylor was born in St Helens, Lancashire, England in 1890. He attended the University of Liverpool, where he received his B.Sc. in 1909 and his M.Sc. in 1910. Taylor then carried out three years of graduate work in Liverpool, after which he spent one year at the Nobel Institute in Stockholm in the laboratory of Svante Arrhenius and another at the Technische Hochschule in Hanover under Max Bodenstein. These studies earned him a Doctor of Science degree from the University of Liverpool in 1914.

Basic research

Taylor showed that chemisorption may be an activated process, and occur slowly. Moreover, he conceived the idea that chemically active sites might be sparse on the surface of a catalyst and, hence, could be inhibited with relatively few molecules.

Taylor showed that hydrogen atoms are key intermediates of reactions involving H on metal surfaces.

Taylor also discovered the conversion of heptane to toluene over chromium oxide.

Protein structure

Taylor and a graduate student developed the first semi-realistic model of the α-helix, an element of protein secondary structure. An earlier model by Astbury had been shown to be physically implausible by Hans Neurath. Using physical models and chemical reasoning, Taylor sought to find a better model, which differs only slightly from the modern α-helix proposed by Linus Pauling and Richard Corey. Taylor reported their models at his Franklin medal lecture (1941) and in press (1942).

Large-scale preparation of heavy water

Work at Princeton

Taylor began at Princeton in 1914 as Instructor in Physical Chemistry, and by 1915, was made an Assistant Professor. He was promoted to Professor of Physical Chemistry in 1922 and became chair of the Chemistry Department at Princeton in 1926, where he served until 1951. In 1927, Taylor became the David B. Jones Professor of Chemistry at Princeton. Taylor also served as the Dean of the Graduate School at Princeton from 1948-1958.

As Chair of Chemistry from 1926-1951, Taylor developed the Chemistry Dept. at Princeton energetically and oversaw the construction of the Frick Chemical Laboratory.

Personal life

Taylor was knighted by both Pope Pius XII and Queen Elizabeth II.

There is a Hugh Stott Taylor Chair of Chemistry at Princeton, funded by an anonymous gift of $500K in honor of Taylor's contributions to Princeton.

Taylor was a devoted Catholic, helped to establish the Catholic chaplaincy at Princeton in 1928 and spoke publicly about the reconciliation of science and faith.


  1. ^ Taylor, H.S. (1928). Proc. R. Soc. (London). A108, 105.
  • (1974) Nature, 251, 266.
  • (1975) Chem. Brit., 11, 370-371.
  • (1975) Biog. Mem. Fell. Roy. Soc, 21, 517-541.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Hugh_Stott_Taylor". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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