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Lennard-Jones was born on 27 October 1894 at Leigh, Lancashire, the eldest son of Mary Ellen and Hugh Jones, an insurance agent. He was educated at Leigh Grammar School, going on to study at the University of Manchester, graduating in 1915 with a first-class honours degree in mathematics.
Atoms of a noble gas interact via a potential in which an attracting van der Waals force balances a repelling force which results from overlapping electron orbits. A well known approximation to this potential is the so-called Lennard-Jones potential, a description of the potential energy as a function of the separation of the atoms. Also named after him, the Lennard-Jones Laboratory houses the School of Chemistry and Physics at Keele University. The Royal Society of Chemistry awards a Lennard-Jones Medal and hosts the Lennard-Jones lecture every second year.
Keele University holds a collection of Lennard-Jones's published work, as well as a laboratory named in his honour. Professor C.A. Coulson's collected lecture notes from 1928-1932, held in Cambridge University Library, record Lennard-Jones' lectures. Coulson wrote 'I suspect that these are the first lectures on theoretical chemistry (or perhaps more accurately quantum chemistry) that had been given in Britain'. Lennard-Jones's private papers are held at Churchill Archives Centre, in Cambridge.
On 26 August 1925 he married Kathleen Mary Lennard, and added her surname to his own to become Lennard-Jones. The couple had two children, John and Mary. He died of cancer at Stoke-on-Trent on 1 November 1954.
Summary of key biographical dates
1894 Born in Leigh, Lancashire, as John Edward Jones, and educated at Leigh Grammar School where he specialised in classics.
1919-22 Studies for Doctor of Science degree and lectures in Mathematics at Manchester University.
1922 Receives Doctor of Science degree at Manchester
1922-4 Research student with a Senior 1851 Exhibition at Trinity College, Cambridge, supervised by Ralph H. Fowler. Sydney Chapman, then Professor of Mathematics at Manchester, had been a Lecturer at Trinity in 1914, and advised Jones to apply there.
1924 Receives Doctor of Science degree at Cambridge. Proposes a semi-empirical interatomic force law.
1925 Marries Kathleen Lennard, adding his wife's surname to his own to become Lennard-Jones.
1939 At outbreak of war, seconded as Chief Superintendent of Armament Research to the Ministry of Supply which took over the mathematical laboratory for ballistics calculations, developed a team of mathematicians for this purpose.
1942-5 Director-General of Scientific Research (Defence), Ministry of Supply
1942-7 Member of the Advisory Council of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.
1946 Knighted (KBE), returns to Cambridge
1947-53 Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Council at the Ministry of Supply
1949 Paper  justifies use of diatomic orbitals only for valenceelectrons by showing the determinantal wave function to be invariant under unitary transformations that could accurately transform molecular orbitals into localized equivalent orbitals.
^Jones, J. E. (1924). "On the Determination of Molecular Fields. I. From the Variation of the Viscosity of a Gas with Temperature". Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 106 (738): 441-462. Bibcode:1924RSPSA.106..441J. doi:10.1098/rspa.1924.0081.
^Jones, J. E. (1924). "On the Determination of Molecular Fields. II. From the Equation of State of a Gas". Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 106 (738): 463-477. Bibcode:1924RSPSA.106..463J. doi:10.1098/rspa.1924.0082.
^ abcLennard-Jones, J. E. (1929). "The electronic structure of some diatomic molecules". Transactions of the Faraday Society. 25: 668-686. doi:10.1039/TF9292500668.
^ abLennard-Jones, J. E. (1934). "The electronic structure and the interaction of some simple radicals". Transactions of the Faraday Society. 30: 70-148. doi:10.1039/TF9343000070.
^ abLennard-Jones, J. (1949). "The Molecular Orbital Theory of Chemical Valency. I. The Determination of Molecular Orbitals". Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 198 (1052): 1-13. Bibcode:1949RSPSA.198....1L. doi:10.1098/rspa.1949.0083.
^ abHall, G. G.; Lennard-Jones, J. (1950). "The Molecular Orbital Theory of Chemical Valency. III. Properties of Molecular Orbitals". Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 202 (1069): 155. Bibcode:1950RSPSA.202..155H. doi:10.1098/rspa.1950.0091.
^Lennard-Jones, J. E. (1937). "The Electronic Structure of Some Polyenes and Aromatic Molecules. I. The Nature of the Links by the Method of Molecular Orbitals". Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 158 (894): 280-296. Bibcode:1937RSPSA.158..280L. doi:10.1098/rspa.1937.0020.