LONDON. David King, South Africa-born Head of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, has taken over from the ebullient Sir Robert May, an Australian, as Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government.
The job entails responsibility to the Prime Minister and Cabinet members for the quality of scientific advice to the Government. King takes over at a time when the issue of scientific advice is at the forefront of political debate in the UK, with the imminent publication of the report of the Phillips inquiry into the bovine spongiform encephalopathy debacle. But Professor King is presently keeping his head down. According to the Department of Trade and Industry, where he will work, he won't be giving interviews "for a month or two."
Scientifically, Professor King's interests are in the physical chemistry of solid surfaces, chemisorption and heterogeneous catalysis. He has very close relations with industry, having convinced John Browne, of BP Amoco to be Chairman of his fundraising Advisory Board at Cambridge, whose members also include a range of chief executives and chairmen of the major chemical companies. He thus seems likely to continue Sir Robert's and this Government's interest in promoting science as the engine of economic growth in the UK.
Professor King will be part time in the post until 1 January 2001. Sir Robert moves on to become President of the Royal Society on 30 November.