ACS Green Chemistry Institute®

Remembering Ken Seddon

Blog Post created by ACS Green Chemistry Institute® on Feb 21, 2018


Contributed by Mary M. Kirchhoff, Ph.D., Director, ACS Green Chemistry Institute®; Executive Vice President of Scientific Advancement, ACS


The green chemistry community lost a friend with the passing of Ken Seddon on January 21.  Ken's stellar science, coupled with his strong opinions and kind heart, made him unforgettable (as did those muttonchops!)


I first met Ken in 1999 at the Green Chemistry Gordon Research Conference in Oxford. I knew Ken by reputation but did not meet him until I was waiting for a taxi at the Oxford train station. I noticed Ken's luggage tag, and exclaimed, “You're Ken Seddon!” He acknowledged the veracity of my statement and we agreed to share a ride to campus. When the cab pulled up, the driver began loading passengers from the rear of the line.  In a classic Ken maneuver, he slammed his hands on the bonnet of the car and shouted, "The front of the queue is over here!" The taxi driver quickly realized the error of his ways.


Ken could be intimidating; when I told him that I was glad to be on his good side, he replied, "No one wants to be on my bad side!" He was a wonderful listener and provided me (and many others) with comfort, support, and words of wisdom during difficult times. He told me on more than one occasion that he had the soggiest shoulder in Belfast.


I had the gift of a five-day visit with Ken in December. Ken continued to direct his research group at the Queen's University Ionic Liquids Laboratories, write manuscripts, and prepare proposals from the nursing home in Cultra. We had lengthy conversations about the future of green chemistry; not surprisingly, Ken assigned me a few tasks to do when I returned home. We talked about books, music, and movies, and Ken introduced me to the brilliant BBC show W1A.


Ken will be remembered for his groundbreaking research on ionic liquids, which earned him many accolades, including the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2015. What I will remember most about Ken was his warmth and kindness. He was a wonderful son to his lovely Mum Muriel, and a true friend to numerous colleagues around the world.  Ken's science will live on through the work of his many collaborators, and his generosity of spirit will live on in our hearts.



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