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Emeritus Professor of History of Science wins accolade

International Prize for Professor Bill Brock

The Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia has awarded William H. Brock, Emeritus Professor of History of Science at the University of Leicester, the 2009 Roy G. Neville Prize for Bibliography or Biography.

Professor Brock has won the prize, which will be presented at the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s Board Dinner on 15 October, for his book William Crookes (1832-1919) and the Commercialization of Science (Ashgate, 2008).

The judges commended Professor Brock’s book as “truly a masterpiece and a fitting tribute to William Crookes and his contributions to the chemical and molecular sciences.”

The Roy G. Neville Prize, established in 2006, is presented in recognition of an outstanding monograph or biography in the areas of the chemical and molecular sciences that has been published over the past five years.

Its object is to encourage emulation, inspire achievement, and to promote public understanding of modern sciences, industries, and economies.

Professor Brock has long felt an interest in the Victorian chemist, entrepreneur and occultist Sir William Crookes, whose career culminated in his appointment as President of the Royal Society in 1913.

Early in Professor Brock’s own career his entry in the 18-volume Dictionary of Scientific Biography became the main source of information on the scientist. His inaugural lecture at the University of Leicester in 1994 took Crookes as its subject, replicating his experiment to test the powers of the famous Victorian medium, Daniel Home.

Professor Brock commented: “I was struck by the significant role that commercial ventures played in Crookes’ career. For example, he bought and exploited gold mines in Wales; he patented filaments for electric light bulbs which he sold to Edison; he developed schemes for the disposal of urban sewage; and he became a Director of the Routledge publishing house. This commercial aspect of his life, which was atypical of other Victorian scientists, seemed to deserve further analysis and development.”

Notes to Editors: For more information on this please contact Professor William Brock, email

Roy G. Neville (1926-2007) was a British chemist who made his fortune from patents and chemical consultancy in America. He founded Engineering and Technical Consultants in Redwood City, California in 1947. A passionate bibliophile from his early teens, Neville used part of his fortune to build a huge library of the history of chemistry. The Roy G. Neville Historical Chemical Library represents one of the richest deposits of books on the history of chemistry in the world. It extends to some 6,000 titles dating from the 15th to the early 20th century. The eponymous prize commemorates the fact that the collection was sold to the Chemical Heritage Foundation in 2006.

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