Sir Robert Robinson, the Nobel Prize winning chemist was born in Rufford, which is near Chesterfield in Derbyshire, England. He was born on September 13, 1886 to William Bradbury Robinson, who manufactured surgical dressings. He invented the machines he used in his manufacturing business.
Robinson began his education at the Chesterfield Grammar School and continued at the Fulneck School in Leeds. After that he attended Manchester University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1906 and his doctoral degree in 1910.
Shortly after earning his doctoral degree from Manchester, Robinson became the first pure and applied organic chemistry at the University of Sydney in Australia. In 1915, he returned to England to serve as the chair of organic chemistry at the University of Liverpool. He held this position until 1920.
In 1920, Robinson became the director of research for the British Dyestuffs Corporation and one year later, he accepted the position of professor of chemistry at St. Andrews. In 1922, he returned to Manchester as the chair of organic chemistry and left in 1928 to take the same position at the University of London. In 1930, he finally settled down as Waynflete professor of chemistry at Oxford University. He remained there until retiring in 1955.
Upon retirement in 1955, Robinson became a director of the Shell Chemical company and also began working as a consultant.
Throughout his career, Robinson focused his research on organic chemistry, particularly dyestuffs. He received the Nobel Prize for his work on the synthesis of alkaloids and anthocyanins. He also discovered the molecular structures of cocaine, morphine, and penicillin.
Robinson’s distinguished career included being a member of more than thirty government committees. He was appointed the delegate for the United Kingdom for the first UNESCO conference in 1947. In 1939, he was knighted and in 1949, he was appointed the Order of Merit. He was a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chemistry and the Royal Society. He was the president of the Royal Society, the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Society for Chemical Industry.
Robinson married Gertrude Maud Walsh in 1912. She was also a student at Manchester University and collaborated with him on some of his research. They had one daughter. Gertrude died in 1954 and three years later, Robinson married Stearn Sylvia Hillstrom. Robinson died on February 8, 1975.