Charles Rees was an eminent organic chemist. He specialized in the area of heterocyclic chemistry—the study of rings made up of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and sulphur atoms—an important subject given that many medicines, agrochemicals, dyes and reprographic materials, as well as a very large number of naturally occurring compounds, including the DNA bases, the building blocks of life itself, are heterocyclic molecules. His scientific work was dominated by two overarching themes: reactive intermediates, in particular neutral, electron-deficient species such as carbenes, nitrenes and arynes, and unusual ring systems, particularly strained rings and novel aromatic systems, including those rich in sulphur and nitrogen atoms. Born in 1927, he was educated at Farnham Grammar School, then spent three years at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, before going to University College Southampton (later Southampton University) (BSc 1950, PhD 1953). After a postdoctoral period, he was appointed assistant lecturer at Birkbeck College, London, in 1955, before moving to a lectureship at King’s College, London, and subsequently to chairs at the University of Leicester (1965), the University of Liverpool (1969) and Imperial College, London (1978). He was elected to the Royal Society in 1974 and appointed CBE in 1995. He died in London in 2006.
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