On 6 December 1920, George Porter (1920–2002) was born in Stainforth, UK. After serving in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve during the Second World War, he began graduate school at Cambridge University, graduating in 1949, studying under supervisor Ronald Norrish (1897–1978), with whom Porter would later share the 1967 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with Manfred Eigen (b.1927) “for their studies of extremely fast chemical reactions, effected by disturbing the equilibrium by means of very short pulses of energy.”
From Photobiology.info: “Photobiologists use a number of spectroscopic techniques to understand how photobiological processes occur… Aborbance changes, from milliseconds to nanoseconds, following excitation with a nanosecond pulsed laser can monitored using a CW light source such as a Xe arc lamp… The polychromatic beam is passed through a spectrograph, either to select the wavelength at which the reaction kinetics are monitored or to measure transient spectra as a function of time.”
This excerpt from an article written by Prof. Porter had included a reflection on faith and contemporary scientific understanding:
“The discoveries of Copernicus, Darwin, and the molecular biologists have irrevocably changed our beliefs about our place in the world… If, then, we have changed our traditional faiths through increased knowledge of ourselves and our universe, is it not possible that our way to a new faith, a new purpose for life, is through further knowledge and understanding of nature? This is the true relevance of science… There is, then, one great purpose for man and for us today, and that is to try to discover man’s purpose by every means in our power. That is the ultimate relevance of science, and not only of science but of every branch of learning which can improve our understanding. In the words of Tolstoy, ‘The highest wisdom has but one science, the science of the whole, the science explaining the Creation and man’s place in it’.”
His 1976 Royal Institution Christmas Lecture was entitled “The Natural History of a Sunbeam,” with the episode segments: Pt.1. “First Light”; Pt.2. “Light and Life”; Pt.3, “Leaf From Nature”; Pt.4. “Candles From the Sun”; Pt.5. “Making Light Work”; Pt.6. “Survival Under the Sun.”
—Nonell, Santi & Cristiano Viappiani. “Basic Spectroscopy.” Photobiological Sciences.
—Porter, George. “The Relevance of Science.” Engineering and Science 38.2 (1974): 22-23.
—“Royal Institution Christmas Lectures.” The Classic TV Archive.
Image: © Royal Society Publishing.