Emeritus Professor William Clegg
Senior Research Investigator

  • Email: bill.clegg@ncl.ac.uk
  • Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 6649
  • Fax: +44 (0) 191 208 6929
  • Address: School of Chemistry
    Bedson Building
    Newcastle University
    Newcastle upon Tyne
    NE1 7RU


Bill Clegg took early retirement from teaching and administration in September 2009, but continues in part-time research, supporting and improving crystallography in Newcastle, developing and exploiting synchrotron radiation for structural studies, and engaging in the training of scientists through PhD supervision and through organising and teaching on international courses on crystallography and synchrotron radiation science. He is an author of many research papers and three books, and has served on numerous committees and working parties serving the crystallographic, chemical and wider scientific communities.

Roles and Responsibilities 

Senior Research Investigator, contributing to the development of crystallography at Newcastle.
Principal Investigator for a regional team of crystallographers in the north-east of England making use of Diamond Light Source beamline I19 for structural characterisation of very demanding samples. Chair, Diamond User Committee.
Baptist Chaplain at Newcastle University.


MA PhD ScD (Cambridge)
Dr habil. (Göttingen)
Cert Theol (Wales)

Previous Positions

Demonstrator in Inorganic Chemistry, Newcastle, 1973-1978
Scientific Assistent, Göttingen, Germany, 1978-1984
Lecturer in Inorganic Chemistry, Newcastle, 1984-1988
Reader in Chemical Crystallography, Newcastle, 1988-1992
Professor of Structural Crystallography, Newcastle, 1992-2009
A series of Joint Appointments, Daresbury Laboratory, 1995-2008


British Crystallographic Association
European Crystallographic Association (and elected member of Council)
American Crystallographic Association
Royal Society of Chemistry

Honours and Awards

RSC Corday-Morgan medal, 1985
Lifetime Honorary Membership of the BCA, 2010


German (fluent but rusty)
French (basic school level)

Informal Interests

Christian faith and ministry (accredited Baptist lay preacher)
Choral singing (tenor - an endangered species!)
Family: 4 grown-up children, 1 grandson and 1 granddaughter so far
Walking, camping, outdoor holidays
Cycling (touring, not racing)
Cooking and bread-making

Research Interests

Clegg Group Research Page
I have been involved in X-ray crystallography throughout my research career, working originally with photographic film methods, laborious calculations, and hand-drawn graphics under the supervision of Peter Wheatley in Cambridge. Use of very old X-ray equipment and main-frame computers during my first fixed-term appointment in Newcastle taught me much of the practical fundamentals of the subject and fostered an interest in the development of crystallographic methods. This was nurtured during my time in Göttingen with George Sheldrick, when I was responsible for producing a complete control program for a modern four-circle diffractometer and producing efficient data collection procedures that have since been implemented by various commercial suppliers of equipment.

Later work in Newcastle involved the use of the world’s first complete commercial CCD crystallography system (1994), a JREI project in the application of a high-intensity low-power X-ray generator (1999), and routine use of low-temperature facilities in data collection. In the last 15–20 years I have made extensive use of synchrotron radiation, and led a major project (from 1994) to construct and commission a new high-flux single-crystal diffraction station at Daresbury Laboratory for use in chemistry and materials science. This became a world-leading research facility of the UK Synchrotron Radiation Source, to the extent that a second station was provided later to address the huge oversubscription. I served on a working party that successfully bid for a new beamline (I19) at Diamond Light Source to take over after the SRS closure in 2008. I have provided an efficient and productive national crystallography service making use of the beamlines at Daresbury and Diamond between 2001 and 2010, supporting the work of dozens of leading research groups around the UK.

Recent research has covered a very wide range of organic, inorganic and organometallic compounds, in collaboration with other groups in Newcastle, at other British Universities, at institutions in other countries, and in British and overseas industry and government research agencies. Within my research group we also synthesise some of our own samples, particularly alkali metal complexes and supramolecular coordination complexes of polycarboxylic acids and related ligands (also known as metal organic frameworks) and investigate their structures and properties.

X-ray crystallography is the most powerful technique available for the determination of structures of solid-state materials. Advances in recent years have made it relatively fast and reliable, and a full crystal structure determination can now, under favourable circumstances, be carried out in a matter of hours. In 2008 we acquired a new Oxford Diffaction (now Agilent Technologies) Gemini A Ultra diffractometer with both Mo and Cu radiation sources, and this has extended the range of samples we are able to investigate before resorting to synchrotron facilities. We are now leading a regional team of scientists (including chemists from Durham) making use of Diamond for the study of more demanding samples.

Key earlier references for crystallographic methods:
W. Clegg. Faster data collection without loss of precision: an extension of the learnt profile method. Acta Crystallographica, Section A, 1981, 37, 22.

W. Clegg. Synchrotron chemical crystallography (Dalton Perspective). J.Chem.Soc., Dalton Trans. 2000, 3223.

R. J. Cernik, W. Clegg, C. R. A. Catlow, G. Bushnell-Wye, J. V. Flaherty, G. N. Greaves, I. Burrows, D. J. Taylor, S. J. Teat and M. Hamichi. A new high-flux chemical and materials crystallography station at the SRS Daresbury. 1. Design, construction and test results. J.Synchrotron Rad. 1997, 4, 279 and 2000, 7, 40.

W. Clegg, M. R. J. Elsegood, S. J. Teat, C. Redshaw and V. C. Gibson. A novel titanium-oxygen ladder structure supported by calix[4]arene ligands, characterised by synchrotron crystallography. J.Chem.Soc., Dalton Trans. 1998, 3037.

Other Expertise

Programming in (old-fashioned!) FORTRAN.
Many self-taught computing skills; touch-typing.
Proof-reading (much experience from journal editing).

Current Work

In addition to work in Newcastle, I have a long-standing and very fruitful research collaboration with chemists at Strathclyde University. Begun in 1983 with Dr Ron Snaith (who later moved to Cambridge) with the encouragement of Professor Ken Wade, this later became more firmly established with Professor Rab Mulvey and recently with Dr Eva Hevia. Research is in the area of main-group chemistry, particularly involving s-block metals (alkali metals and alkaline earths), and some of the topics that have emerged over the years include ring stacking and laddering, the trapping of reactive intermediates, inverse crown complexes, alkali-metal-mediated metalation of organic substrates, and 'cleave and capture' chemistry. Many high-impact publications have resulted from this work, including several journal front cover illustrations.

Research Roles

Having retired formally from a position of overall responsibility for crystallography at Newcastle University, I continue now with activities in these areas:
development of facilities, operations and software;
use of synchrotron radiation in crystallography;
publication of a large backlog of results;
training in crystallography through summer schools organised by the BCA and Diamond Light Source.

Postgraduate Supervision

I have supervised about 25 PhD students over the years, in various aspects of synthetic chemistry and crystallography. The most recent to finish is Rachel Gill, who submitted her thesis and successfully defended it at a viva in November 2010. My last remaining PhD student is James Holcroft, who expects to complete his research and submit his thesis in 2011. Both Rachel and James have been working in the area of metal organic frameworks, including synthesis, crystallography, gas adsorption, thermal properties, and other physical techniques.

Esteem Indicators

Honorary Member of the British Crystallographic Association from 2010.
>2000 entries in the Cambridge Structural Database (the world's 12th highest contributor).
>1150 published papers and 3 books.
Numerous journal front cover illustrations.


Two major EPSRC grants finished in 2010. I am currently formally Principal Investigator for an EU grant obtained by Dr Ulrich Baisch, though Ulrich has been almost entirely responsible for the successful application. Current research funding comes mainly from commercial contracts. We also have synchrotron beamtime awards from Diamond Light Source.

Industrial Relevance

Crystal structure determination is of importance in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries and we are able to provide appropriate services using expert personnel and modern equipment, at an attractive price. We have been carrying out commercial work for about 20 years.