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Honorary Degree Orations
Professor Harry R Allcock
Public Orator, Dr Paul Kelly presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Ceremony held on Friday 14 July at 10.30am
Forty years ago, almost to the month, Harry Allcock and co-authors made a modest summation of the then current situation regarding a class of polymer known as polyphosphazenes. Writing about these promising new materials in the Introduction to a paper in the American Chemical Society's journal Inorganic Chemistry they noted that "the possibility that high molecular weight, open-chain polymers, comparable in structure and stability to silicones, might be derived from the phosphazene skeleton has intrigued many investigators in recent years". The amazing thing is that even forty years later these compounds continue to intrigue, thanks in no small part to the pioneering efforts of Professor Allcock, efforts that continue to yield significant breakthroughs to this day. The key to the importance of such compounds is the fact that ostensibly simple chemical changes render an amazing versatility in terms of their physical properties. And crucially this not just of academic or theoretical interest - polyphosphazenes have formed the basis for practical systems as wide-ranging as industrial o-rings, biocompatible materials, fire-retardants, liquid crystals, photoluminescent materials, fuel cell components and artificial bone replacements. There really does seem to be no end to their versatility.
Key to the development of any new technology such as this is the vision and ingenuity of the early pioneers in the area. Professor Allcock provided this and continues to do so. Thus far his work on this - and indeed other - areas has lead to in excess of 500 published research papers, together many literature studies. The latter culminated three years ago with the publication by John Wiley of Harry's prodigious overview of the subject entitled "Chemistry and Applications of Polyphosphazenes", a 700-plus page compendium which will surely remain the definitive work on the subject for years to come.
Now the thing is that Harry is Loughborough lad, born and bred. Despite living and working in the States for many years now - indeed for the last twenty one years he has held the distinguished position of Evan Hugh Professor of Chemistry at The Pennsylvania State University - he clearly has a great fondness for the old place. Indeed his roots are highlighted within the very first sentence of his research group's home page on the Web. This is undoubtedly a much visited site and so through it the name of Loughborough will have been broadcast to a multitude of researchers worldwide, some of whom will have had no idea where it is - let alone how to pronounce it! Of course over the years many sons and daughters of Loughborough will have ventured far and wide on the way to making their mark in their chosen field. Few Loughburians will, however, have equalled the impact that Professor Allcock has made - while simultaneously keeping one eye on his roots. It is entirely fitting therefore that we should recognise him today and so, Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you, and to the whole University, Professor Harry Allcock for the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa.