Sir John Pople revolutionised the field of quantum chemistry.

Sir John Pople revolutionised the field of quantum chemistry. In 1998, he shared the Nobel prize for chemistry with Walter Kohn for developing computational methods in quantum chemistry. His work formed the basis of Gaussian software, which allows the theoretical study of molecules.

Pople studied mathematics at Cambridge University but took courses in many branches of chemical science to become interested in the theory of liquids. He secured a research place with Sir John Lennard-Jones, and his work on water molecules gained him a PhD. Pople stayed in Cambridge for the next seven years, as a research fellow and lecturer, before being appointed as head of a division of the National Physical Laboratory in 1958. However, a sabbatical year at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, US, convinced him to devote as much time as possible to chemistry. He therefore returned to Carnegie in 1964 to accept a post as professor of chemical physics.

There, he returned to some of the fundamental problems of electronic structure that he had pondered over during his Cambridge years, aided by powerful computers.

Emma Davies