Departmental History

First 50 years of Chemistry at York

The planning process for the construction of the Department of Chemistry (which also housed Biology and Physics in the early years), started in the summer of 1964. Professor (later Sir) Richard Norman was appointed from Oxford to be the founding Professor of the Department and he and Dr David Waddington were intimately involved in this project. The Department, built using a new prefabricated technique known as the CLASP system, was completed in July 1965.

The Department has made remarkable progress over its first 50 years. The undergraduate intake has grown steadily reaching a maximum of 203 in 2010/11 and the required A-level grades have also been enhanced (AAB in 2012/13 compared to EEE in 1965). 

The research school in 2012, for example, consisted of around 160 research postgraduates (mainly studying for PhD degrees), around 20 on taught postgraduate courses and over 60 research fellows. Research strengths cover many areas of chemistry with analytical chemistry, atmospheric chemistry, biological chemistry, catalysis, green chemistry, materials chemistry, organometallic chemistry, spectroscopy and synthesis being particularly prominent.

Photographs and videos



A video on the construction of the University of York 1963-65 (courtesy of Shepherd Group, the main contractor) is on the Official University of York YouTube site:

To contact the Department with additional information/photos (or corrections), please email