John Lennard-Jones


Sir John Edward Lennard-Jones KBE, FRS[1] (27 October 1894 – 1 November 1954) was a British mathematician and professor of theoretical physics at the University of Bristol, and then of theoretical science at the University of Cambridge. He was an important pioneer in the development of modern computational chemistry and theoretical chemistry.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12]

John Lennard-Jones

John Edward Jones

(1894-10-27)27 October 1894
Died1 November 1954(1954-11-01) (aged 60)
Alma materUniversity of Manchester
Known forLennard-Jones potential
Kathleen Lennard
(m. 1925)
Scientific career
Doctoral advisorRalph Howard Fowler[3]
Doctoral students

Early life and educationEdit

Lennard-Jones was born on 27 October 1894 at Leigh, Lancashire, the eldest son of Mary Ellen and Hugh Jones, an insurance agent. He was educated at Leigh Grammar School, going on to study at the University of Manchester, graduating in 1915 with a first-class honours degree in mathematics.[13]


Lennard-Jones is well known among scientists for his work on molecular structure, valency and intermolecular forces. Much research of these topics over several decades grew from a paper he published in 1929.[6] His theories of liquids and of surface catalysis also remain influential. He wrote few, albeit influential, papers.

His main interest was of atomic and molecular structure, especially the forces between atomic particles, the nature of chemical bonds and such basic matters as why water expands when it freezes. Holding the first Chair of Theoretical Chemistry in the United Kingdom, he established a research school applying to phenomena in physics and organic chemistry new concepts of quantum mechanics and the interactions of subatomic particles. The department attracted many notable scientists and mathematicians, including S.F. Boys, C.A. Coulson, G.G. Hall, A. Hurley, and J. Pople.

Atoms of a noble gas interact via a potential in which an attracting van der Waals force balances a repelling force which results from overlapping electron orbits. A well known approximation to this potential is the so-called Lennard-Jones potential, a description of the potential energy as a function of the separation of the atoms. Also named after him, the Lennard-Jones Laboratory houses the School of Chemistry and Physics at Keele University. The Royal Society of Chemistry awards a Lennard-Jones Medal[14] and hosts the Lennard-Jones lecture every second year.

Keele University holds a collection of Lennard-Jones's published work, as well as a laboratory named in his honour. Professor C.A. Coulson's collected lecture notes from 1928 to 1932, held in Cambridge University Library, record Lennard-Jones' lectures. Coulson wrote 'I suspect that these are the first lectures on theoretical chemistry (or perhaps more accurately quantum chemistry) that had been given in Britain'. Lennard-Jones's private papers are held at Churchill Archives Centre, in Cambridge.[15]

On 26 August 1925 he married Kathleen Mary Lennard, and added her surname to his own to become Lennard-Jones. The couple had two children, John and Mary. He died of cancer at Stoke-on-Trent on 1 November 1954.[13]

Summary of key biographical datesEdit

Awards and honoursEdit

The Lennard-Jones Centre[17] at the University of Cambridge is named in his honour.

The school of chemistry/medicinal chemistry and physics at Keele university is named after him.


  1. ^ a b c Mott, N. F. (1955). "John Edward Lennard-Jones 1894–1954". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 1: 174–184. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1955.0013.
  2. ^ Mehra, Jagdish; Rechenberg, Helmut (2001). The Historical Development of Quantum Theory: Fundamental Equations of Quantum Mechanics and the Reception of the New Quantum Mechanics. Springer. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-387-95178-2.
  3. ^ a b c John Lennard-Jones at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  4. ^ Jones, J. E. (1924). "On the Determination of Molecular Fields. I. From the Variation of the Viscosity of a Gas with Temperature". Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 106 (738): 441–462. Bibcode:1924RSPSA.106..441J. doi:10.1098/rspa.1924.0081.
  5. ^ Jones, J. E. (1924). "On the Determination of Molecular Fields. II. From the Equation of State of a Gas". Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 106 (738): 463–477. Bibcode:1924RSPSA.106..463J. doi:10.1098/rspa.1924.0082.
  6. ^ a b c Lennard-Jones, J. E. (1929). "The electronic structure of some diatomic molecules". Transactions of the Faraday Society. 25: 668–686. Bibcode:1929FaTr...25..668L. doi:10.1039/TF9292500668.
  7. ^ a b Lennard-Jones, J. E. (1931). "Wave Functions of Many-Electron Atoms". Mathematical Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. 27 (3): 469–480. Bibcode:1931PCPS...27..469L. doi:10.1017/S0305004100010057.
  8. ^ a b Lennard-Jones, J. E. (1934). "The electronic structure and the interaction of some simple radicals". Transactions of the Faraday Society. 30: 70–148. doi:10.1039/TF9343000070.
  9. ^ a b Lennard-Jones, J. (1949). "The Molecular Orbital Theory of Chemical Valency. I. The Determination of Molecular Orbitals". Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 198 (1052): 1–13. Bibcode:1949RSPSA.198....1L. doi:10.1098/rspa.1949.0083.
  10. ^ a b Hall, G. G.; Lennard-Jones, J. (1950). "The Molecular Orbital Theory of Chemical Valency. III. Properties of Molecular Orbitals". Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 202 (1069): 155. Bibcode:1950RSPSA.202..155H. doi:10.1098/rspa.1950.0091. S2CID 97300916.
  11. ^ Portraits of John Lennard-Jones at the National Portrait Gallery, London
  12. ^ ""The Lennard-Jones paper of 1929 and the foundations of Molecular Orbital Theory" by George G. Hall, Adv. Quant. Chem. 1991, 22, 1".
  13. ^ a b Matthew, H. C. G.; Harrison, B., eds. (23 September 2004). "The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. ref:odnb/34496. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/34496. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  14. ^ "Statistical Mechanics & Thermodynamics Group".
  15. ^ "The Papers of Sir John Edward Lennard-Jones | ArchiveSearch". Retrieved 18 October 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. ^ Lennard-Jones, J. E. (1937). "The Electronic Structure of Some Polyenes and Aromatic Molecules. I. The Nature of the Links by the Method of Molecular Orbitals". Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 158 (894): 280–296. Bibcode:1937RSPSA.158..280L. doi:10.1098/rspa.1937.0020.
  17. ^ "The Lennard-Jones Centre – Lennard-Jones Centre".
Academic offices
Preceded by Principal, University College of North Staffordshire
(now Keele University)

Succeeded by