2014 Barry W. Ninham

Barry W. Ninham (Canberra)

The 2014 Overbeek Gold Medal Winner is Prof. Dr. Barry Ninham, Canberra, Australia. He is awarded the medal for his lifelong fundamental contributions to the development of Colloids and Interface Science.
    Barry Ninham was educated as a Mathematical Physicist at the University of Western Australia and the University of Maryland. His Ph.D was on the Quantum Statistical Mechanics of the Electron Gas. Joint work of Barry Ninham and V. Adrian Parsegian in the1960’s led to new insights into the subtleties of molecular forces in condensed media. This led to Ninham’s appointment in 1970 as Foundation Professor and Head of a new research Department of Applied Mathematics (Natural Sciences) in the Institute of Advanced Studies at the Australian National University. Groups he recruited and led included a very successful department in Optical Sciences for several decades. 
    But his principal research focus was on Colloid and Surface Chemistry in which his Department became and remains a leading international center. Pioneering direct measurement of molecular forces between molecularly smooth surfaces in liquids was accomplished via a then newly constructed Surface Forces Apparatus with a group under Jacob Israelchvili. Later force measurement work was done via the AFM Colloid probe technique developed in the Department. 
    Ninham is probably best recognised for his work in: theory in molecular forces, and self assembly in solution of surfactants and lipids, vesicles, micelles, microemulsions, emulsions and their microstructure. And for work on specific ion effects. In the last two decades work with which he is associated has focussed attention on the ubiquity of noneuclidean bicontinuous geometries that are opening new vistas in our understanding of microstructure in these areas, from biology to inorganic chemistry and porous media. 
    Ninham has mentored or directed as students or research fellows at least 80 who have become full professors in Australia and other countries. He has published over 450 papers and some books. His fields are not limited to colloid science and span mathematics, biology, chemistry and fundamental physics, chemical engineering and nanotechnology. His work has attracted numerous awards, honours and professorships from Sweden, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, Russia, USA and Australia. 
    An iconocast by nature, his work over the recent 15 years has been motivated by the startling realisation and demonstration that the foundations of colloid science are seriously flawed. The ramifications, he maintains, are not yet fully appreciated and have wide and exciting implications that open up a new era especially for colloid science in biology. He retired in 2000 and has published over 150 papers and some books since. He is presently a professor emeritus at ANU and works there and at the University of Florence. 

    Recent books