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A drawer from the cabinet of Giovanni Vigani, the first 1702 Professor. Image: Department of Chemistry Photography.

The 1702 Chair of Chemistry at Cambridge – one of the longest-established Chemistry Chairs in the UK – is to be renamed in honour of a distinguished alumnus whose generous new donation will support it in future.

The Chair will now be known as the Yusuf Hamied 1702 Chair of Chemistry. It was previously the BP (1702) Chair of Chemistry, the original Chair having been renamed following a generous endowment by BP in 1991. BP is continuing its association with the department, but redirecting its funding to support young academics.

Established in 1702, it is one of the oldest Chairs of Chemistry in the UK. Its first incumbent was Giovanni Vigani (1702-12), a contemporary and friend of Sir Isaac Newton.

He has been followed by a line of renowned chemists, including Lord Todd (1944-71), who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1957 for his work on nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA and RNA.

As CEO and Chairman of the socially conscious Indian pharmaceutical company Cipla, Dr Hamied worked to provide low-cost generic antiretroviral drugs to people with HIV and Aids in developing countries, reducing the cost of the drugs to under a dollar a day. His actions saved hundreds of thousands of lives and were celebrated in the acclaimed documentary Fire in the Blood. In recognition of his socially conscious work, Dr Hamied was awarded the first Department of Chemistry Alumni Medal in 2016 'for services to the community that have brought honour to the Department of Chemistry'. (See picture above.)

Dr Hamied has already donated to the department significantly in many areas. This includes the creation of the Todd-Hamied Meeting Room, named in honour of Nobel Laureate Lord Todd, whom Dr Hamied describes as "my mentor and guide over the years" and who was himself a holder of the 1702 Chair of Chemistry for many years. Thanks to Dr Hamied’s support, the department also has the Todd-Hamied Laboratory (used by Professor Clare Grey’s research group) and the Hamied Laboratory for Chemical Synthesis & Catalysis (used by Professor Matt Gaunt’s research group).

Dr Hamied came to Cambridge to study Natural Sciences in 1954, and stayed to complete his PhD with Lord Todd, who – he said – "transformed my experience of science".

Of his support for the Yusuf Hamied 1702 Chair of Chemistry, Dr Hamied says: "My association with Chemistry at Cambridge dates back to 1954 and ever since there has been a close bonding, which I hope will last for years to come. In recent years we have set-up the Todd-Hamied Seminar Room, The Todd-Hamied Laboratory and the Hamied Laboratory in the department. Now I am delighted that I am leaving behind a legacy for the future in the creation of the Yusuf Hamied 1702 Chair for Chemistry. Cambridge has always been a leader in Chemistry and this Chair will contribute further to its leadership role."

BP is continuing its long association with Chemistry at Cambridge. Anna-Marie Greenaway, BP Global Director for International University Partnerships, says: "BP has worked closely with the Department of Chemistry for over 30 years and our endowment will now focus on enhancing the diversity and development of young academics within the Department."

Head of Department Dr James Keeler says: "We are extremely thankful to Dr Hamied for his continuing support, and it is truly fitting that his name will henceforth be associated with our most prestigious Chair. The repurposing of the BP endowment is also very welcome, as it gives us an important new way to support early-career academics. We are very grateful to BP for making this possible."