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Magdalene College Cambridge

Professor Sir David Clary FRS

Professor Sir David Clary FRS is an Honorary Fellow and Director of Studies in Chemistry at Magdalene. His research is on the application of quantum mechanics to chemistry. He has also published recently on the history of science in the 20th century.

His most recent academic appointment was President of Magdalen College, Oxford (2005-20) and Professor of Chemistry, University of Oxford (2002-2022). His previous appointments include being Fellow in Chemistry (1983-1996), Director of Studies in Natural Sciences (1988-1996) and Senior Tutor (1989-1993) of Magdalene College, Cambridge.

He has an interest in science policy and was the first Chief Scientific Advisor to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (2009-2013).


Research Interests

He is a theoretical chemist who has made many contributions to the development and applications of the quantum theory of chemical reactions. His theories allow for predictions to be made for chemical problems under conditions where it is hard to perform experiments. This includes the high temperatures in combustion processes, the lower temperatures of atmospheric chemistry, the very low temperatures in astrophysical environments, and the properties of highly toxic compounds.


  • BSc University of Sussex (1974)
  • PhD University of Cambridge (1977)
  • ScD University of Cambridge (1998)
  • Hon DSc University of Sussex (2011)

Career/Research Highlights

  • Spiers Memorial Award, Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) (2018)
  • Knight Bachelor for Services to International Science (2016)
  • Liversidge Award for Physical Chemistry, RSC (2010)
  • Coulson Lecturer, University of Georgia, USA (2009)
  • Polanyi Medal (from the Gas Kinetics Group of the RSC) (2004)
  • Kenneth Pitzer Lecture, University of California, Berkeley, USA (2004)
  • George B. Kistiakowsky Lecture, Harvard University, USA (2002)
  • Distinguished Visiting Professor, National University of Singapore (2002)
  • Visiting Miller Professor, University of California, Berkeley (2001)
  • Chemical Dynamics Award, RSC (1998)
  • Tilden Prize, RSC (for advances in chemistry) (1997)
  • Annual Medal of the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science (1989)
  • Corday Morgan Prize, RSC (1989)
  • Marlow Medal, RSC (1986)
  • Meldola Medal, RSC (1981)

Professional Affiliations

Elected Fellowships

  • Royal Society (1997)
  • Institute of Physics (1997)
  • Royal Society of Chemistry (1997)
  • International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science, Member (1998)
  • American Association for Advancement of Science (2003)
  • American Physical Society (2003)
  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences, International Honorary Member (2003)
  • Chinese Academy of Sciences, Einstein Professor (2014)
  • Chemical Research Society of India, Honorary Fellow (2018)

Selected Publications

Quantum dynamics of chemical reactions
Clary, D.C.
Spiers Memorial Lecture
Faraday Discussions 2018; 212; 9-32.

New Developments in Semiclassical Transition-State Theory
Shan, X., Burd, T. A. H., Clary, D. C.
The Journal of Physical Chemistry A. 2019; 123; 4639–4657.

Book: Schrodinger in Oxford, World Scientific Publishing, 2022.