21 May 1953
Principal, Queen’s University
Dr. Dennis P. Riley, of the Royal Institution, has written me that he has
made application for the Chowh Research Professorship of Chemistry in Queen’s University.
Although he has not asked me to write a reference for him, I have decided to write
to you, in the hope that my knowledge about his work may be useful to you in making
I have been deeply interested in the work that Dr. Riley and his collaborators
have been carrying out during recent years. It is evident that he has a thoroughly
sound training in physical chemistry, and that he is a man of unusual originality
and effectiveness. He has a thorough understanding of modern methods of investigating
the structure of large molecules, including the several physical chemical techniques
and the x-ray diffraction techniques.
I consider the work that he has carried out during the last two years, on
the determination of the principal ways of folding of polypeptide chains in the globular
proteins through the determination of radical distribution functions to be of the
greatest importance. Dr. Riley and his collaborator, Dr. Arndt, have shown that the
radial distribution method is far more powerful than it had been expected to be, and
that it can be used to distinguish between the right-handed α helix and the left-handed
α helix of L-amino-acid polypeptide chains. This work has been characterized not only
by boldness but also by originality. Similar originality is evident in his work on
the determination of the shape of nucleic acid molecules in solution by the analysis
of the x-ray diffraction pattern.
I had the pleasure of spending a day with Dr. Riley in London last month,
and also of talking with him several times
Principal, Queen’s University, Page 2 21/5/53
in the summer of 1952. He has impressed me as having a fine personality. I am
confident that he would be an unusually successful lecturer, and in general I feel
that I can recommend him strongly for the Chowh Research Professorship.