Aberystwyth academic recognised for exceptional contribution to chemistry

AJS “Bill” Williams, an Honorary Teaching Fellow at Aberystwyth University, has been recognised for his work in educating more than 80,000 school children during his long career from 1950-2011. The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) have named Bill as one of the 175 Faces of Chemistry.

The 175 Faces of Chemistry was launched by the RSC to celebrate their 175th anniversary in 2016. The RSC aims to celebrate both past and present individuals who have helped to shape the industry and to identify role models for future generations of chemists. Other individuals to have been listed by the RSC include Marie Curie, the first person to receive two Nobel prizes in different fields, Michael Faraday, for his work on electromagnetism and electrochemistry, and Joseph Priestley, for his discovery of oxygen.

A J S “Bill” Williams

A J S “Bill” Williams

The RSC hope that the 175 Faces of Chemistry initiative will encourage diversity and equality in science. The organisation is also campaigning for the Welsh Government to raise the standards of chemistry teaching by 2020. Bill Williams has been shown to be an excellent example of a teacher who has helped to bring chemistry to life for many school children.

After a six year RAF career as a pilot and flying instructor, Mr Williams became an undergraduate at Aberystwyth University in 1950. Mr Williams said “University was the greatest intellectual excitement. July 1950 was indeed a great month because I graduated with a first class honours in Chemistry from Aberystwyth and was also made assistant lecturer in organic chemistry.”

From 1969, when the Faculty of Science launched the Schools’ Lecture Service, Bill started holding demonstrations and public displays. Since then, he says “alongside colleagues at Aberystwyth, I have given around 800 lectures and demonstrations to schoolchildren.”

In 1990, in response to a RSC initiative to increase the interest among 10-12 year olds in science, Bill devised the practical demonstration lecture ‘Science and Energy’. Dr James Ballantine (1934-2013), a Reader in chemistry at Swansea University, later joined Mr Williams on tour. Dr Ballantine has also been listed as one of the 175 Faces of Chemistry for his achievements as a life-long promoter and communicator of chemistry.

In recognition of Bill Williams’ services to science, to young people and to the Royal Society of Chemistry, he has also received an MBE, the Michael Faraday Award Lecture, the B. D. Shaw Bronze Medal (from the University of Nottingham) and the RSC Silver Medal.

After Mr Williams’ retirement in 2011, the ‘Science and Energy’ lecture is still given by Drs J. S. Davies and J. Loveridge to enthusiastic audiences.