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 a decision.
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
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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.