At the recent winter graduation ceremony, Emeritus Professor Ian Mills, FRS, was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Science (DSc).
Prof Mills was an undergraduate in Reading, before going on to study for a PhD at Oxford. He joined the department in 1957 as a lecturer in physical chemistry. During his career he has become one of the world’s leading authorities on the application of infrared spectroscopy to study small molecules. Infrared spectroscopy allows us to look at how the bonds that hold atoms together in molecules stretch and bend and thus to learn about the strength and nature of these bonds.
Following his retirement in 1995, Prof Mills has made outstanding contributions to a second field of research – that of metrology – the science of measurement. This is absolutely fundamental to the whole of science and indeed to much of society. If we cannot measure things accurately then scientific investigation simply becomes impossible and to measure things accurately we need proper standards to measure them against.
As part of this, Prof Mills led a group with the onerous task of redefining the kilogram, moving away from the arbitrary nature of with the current definition – a cylinder of metal kept in Paris. Their work is now done and a new definition of the kilogram has been made which was accepted unanimously at the 24th Annual Conference on Weights and Measures and is likely to be ratified in the near future.
He was awarded an OBE for his services to chemistry and metrology in 2013.