Charles Coulson

Charles Alfred Coulson FRS (13 December 1910 - 7 January 1974) was a prominent researcher in the field of theoretical chemistry.

Life and work

Charles Coulson was the elder of twin boys. His brother John Coulson became a noted chemical engineer. Their father was Alfred Coulson (who became Principal of Dudley Technical College) and their mother was Annie Sincere Hancock, a school headmistress.[1][2]

Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge,[2] Coulson’s interests included mathematics, physics, chemistry, and molecular biology. His use of quantum methods to study molecular structure led to election as a fellow of the Royal Society in 1950. He held academic posts at the University of St Andrews, University College London, King's College London, and the University of Oxford. At Oxford he was the Rouse Ball Professor of Applied Mathematics. In 1972 he became the first Professor of Theoretical Chemistry at the University of Oxford, and that Chair is now named after him. Many prominent theoretical chemists studied with him, including H. Christopher Longuet-Higgins.[3]

Coulson wrote several books, but Valence, published by Oxford University Press in 1952, was the most influential. The 3rd Edition, Coulson's Valence, was published after his death by Roy McWeeny in 1979. Coulson also wrote popular works on atomic and molecular structure.[3]

Raised as a Methodist, Coulson became a committed Christian in 1930. Beside his scientific works, he wrote Science, Technology and the Christian (1953) and Science and Christian Belief (1955), integrating his scientific and religious views. Coulson apparently coined the phrase God of the gaps.[4] Coulson believed religious faith was essential for the responsible use of science. He was a pacifist and conscientious objector, but championed the development of nuclear energy. He encouraged scientists to help improve third world food production.

Coulson was a member of the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science and won the Davy Medal of the Royal Society in 1970.[5]
See also

* Valence bond theory
* Molecular orbital
* List of science and religion scholars
* List of chemists


1. ^ University of St Andrews biographies: Charles Alfred Coulson
2. ^ a b Altmann, S.L., & Bowen, E. J. (Dec 1974). "Charles Alfred Coulson 1910 - 1974". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society: 75-134.
3. ^ a b Mallion, Roger; Roy McWeeny and Brian O'Leary (1992). "Charles Alfred Coulson". Journal of Molecular Structure (Theochem) (Amsterdam: Elsevier Science Publishers B. V.) 259: xv-xx.
4. ^ Hough, Adrian (2006). "Not a Gap in Sight: Fifty Years of Charles Coulson's Science and Christian Belief". Theology 109: pp.21–27.
5. ^ IAQMS Member page for Charles Coulson

Further reading

* Linnett, J. W. (March 1975). "Charles Coulson 1910 - 1974". Chemistry in Britain: 109.

External links

* O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Charles Coulson", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews, .
* Video of a talk by Ana Simões titled "Textbooks as Manifestos: C. A. Coulson after Linus Pauling and Robert S. Mulliken"

List of chemists

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