JOHN NEIL SHERWOOD:
PIONEER IN ORGANIC & MOLECULAR CRYSTALS
Thursday 7th September
1650 - 1750
Organic crystalline materials are ubiquitous in our everyday life as highlighted by many examples: pharmaceuticals; personal products such as soap and candles; confectioneries such as chocolate and ice cream; agrochemicals such as crop protection products; explosives, electronic materials such as piezoelectric and non-linear optic devices. Crystals may have imperfections due to missing or misplaced molecules (point defects) or when dimensionally extended (line defects). Such defects are highly important as they can affect crystal properties and hence their performance. Despite their obvious utility, the crystal and crystallisation science of organic and molecular materials, and indeed for that matter organic and molecular solid-state chemistry itself, is surprisingly, even to the present day, under-researched when compared to its inorganic materials sibling.
Understanding, characterising and defining the crystal growth of these materials and, in particular, the pivotal inter-relationship between their growth conditions, defect types generated and resulting properties owes so very much to the seminal work, spanning 6 decades, of Professor John N Sherwood of the University of Strathclyde who died at the age of 87 on 4th December 2020.
This special session at the International Symposium on Industrial Crystallisation seeks to recognise John Sherwood’s enormous contribution to the field of organic and molecular crystal growth science and technology. He produced a wide body of research work encompassing fundamental crystal and crystallisation science right through to its practical applications, through a number of key areas, notably: the growth of large, perfect and pure single crystals; plastic crystals and their mechanical behaviour; crystal characterisation using synchrotron radiation; industrial crystallisation processes; and non-linear optic materials.
His academic research career, as an independent researcher, was carried out exclusively within the Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, UK.
John Sherwood at his graduation from the University of Durham in 1951 (left) and after retirement sitting by the harbour at Cobnor in West Sussex on 24th June, 2020 (right). Both photos courtesy of the Sherwood Family.
John Sherwood also contributed widely to the scientific community through his work for the research councils, his industrial consultancy and his leadership activities within the crystal growth and solid-state chemistry communities. He was a founder member of the British Association for Crystal Growth (BACG) where, as its chair, he led it’s re-vitalisation in the 1990s, notably by enhancing its inclusivity and scientific diversity, and promoting emerging talent. Later, he served as the association’s President. John also held a succession of senior academic offices at Strathclyde including his election by his peers to the most senior post open to staff, Vice-Principal.
During his career, his research progressed from the examination of an imperfect and poorly understood, but at least, single, anthracene crystal to the development of a range of the considerably more perfect NLO materials. His research work has made a massive contribution to the better understanding of the nature and properties of the imperfections in organic crystals and, in doing so, has provided a route map as to how their final perfection can be achieved. John Sherwood was, without doubt, a giant within the crystal growth and organic and molecular materials and solid-state chemistry fields and his presence will be greatly missed by the community to which he made such a vibrant contribution.
We gratefully acknowledge John’s colleagues past and present for their help in preparing this brief narrative, notably Frank Cruickshank, Duncan Graham, Bill Jones, Cai Yun Ma, Mike McBride, Peter Robinson, Linda Seton, Rosemary Sherwood, Ranko Vrcelj and Peter West.
Bibliographic Note on Sources
John Sherwood presented an invited retrospective lecture at the 6th International Workshop on the Crystal Growth of Organic Materials (CGOM-6) held at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow in August 2003. This was subsequently published as a Perspective Article for Crystal Growth and Design  and contains 52 cited references to some of his key primary research papers that are related to the summary narrative presented here in the short introductory review.
Information concerning both his family life as well as his wider contributions both to University management and the wider scientific community are also available .
Fifty Years as a Crystal Gazer: Life as an Imperfectionist, J N Sherwood, Crystal Growth and Design 4 (2004) 863-877.
Professor John Neil Sherwood (1933 - 2020): World renowned crystal scientist and imperfectionist (see: https://www.bacg.co.uk/profsherwood/).