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Peter Atkins

Peter William Atkins
BornAugust 10 1940
Amersham, Buckinghamshire, England
Nationality British
FieldPhysical chemistry
Lincoln College, Oxford
Alma materUniversity of Leicester
Academic advisor  Martyn Raymond Christian Symons
Notable students  Laurence Barron
A.D. Wilson-Gordon
Known forAcademic level chemistry text books
Notable prizesRSC Meldola Medal
Religious stanceAtheist

Peter William Atkins (b. August 10, 1940) is a Fellow and professor of chemistry at Lincoln College in the University of Oxford, England. He is a prolific writer of popular chemistry textbooks, including Physical Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry and Molecular Quantum Mechanics, three of the world's most popular chemistry textbooks. Atkins' Physical Chemistry which he now cowrites with Julio de Paula of Haverford College, is in its 8th edition. In addition, Atkins' Molecular Quantum Mechanics is in its 4th. Atkins is also the author of a number of popular science works, including Atkins' Molecules and Galileo's Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science.


Peter Atkins left school at fifteen 'for private reasons' and took a job with Monsanto as a lab assistant. He studied for A-levels by himself but failed to take a place at Southampton University before, after interview, gaining a place at University of Leicester at a week's notice.

Atkins studied chemistry at the University of Leicester, obtaining a bachelor's degree in chemistry and in 1964 a Ph.D. for research into electron spin resonance and other aspects of theoretical chemistry. In 1969, he won the Royal Society of Chemistry's Meldola Medal. Atkins then taught physical chemistry at UCLA and later at Lincoln College, Oxford, where he has been ever since.

Atkins married Judith Ann Kearton in 1964 and together they had one daughter, Juliet Louise Tiffany (born 1970). The couple divorced in 1983. He later married a fellow scientist Susan Greenfield (later Baroness Greenfield) in 1991. The couple divorced in 2005.

Atkins has lectured in quantum mechanics and quantum chemistry courses (up to graduate level) at the University of Oxford. He retired from lecturing at an Undergraduate level in December 2006.


Atkins is a well-known atheist and supporter of Richard Dawkins.[1] He has written and spoken on issues of humanism, atheism, and what he sees as the incompatibility between science and religion. Atkins has also participated with debates with theists such as Alister McGrath and William Lane Craig[2]. He is the Senior Member for the Oxford Secular Society and an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society.

In December 2006, Atkins was featured in a UK television documentary on atheism called The Trouble with Atheism, presented by Rod Liddle. In that documentary Atkins was asked by Liddle:

"Give me your views on the existence, or otherwise, of god"

Atkins replied:

"Well it's fairly straightforward: there isn't one. And there's no evidence for one, no reason to believe that there is one, and so I don't believe that there is one. And I think that it is rather foolish that people do think that there is one"[3]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Transcript of debate with theist William Lane Craig
  3. ^ The Trouble with Atheism, UK Channel 4 TV Documentary. 2006-12-18.
  • Who's Who in the World, 21st edition.
  • Debrett's People of Today. Debrett's Peerage Ltd., 2006.
  • Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2006.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Peter_Atkins". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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