Sir Rex attended Colyton Grammar School in Devon before coming up to St John’s in 1942, taking a BA and DPhil in Chemistry. He was a Fellow of both Exeter College and Lincoln College, and was Warden of Merton College from 1969-84. He was elected an Honorary Fellow of St John’s in 1968, and was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford from 1977 to 1981.
The Royal Society describes Sir Rex as ‘a distinguished chemist who pioneered the early use of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to determine the molecular structure of various compounds. A leading figure in the design and development of NMR equipment, he contributed to the technique’s adoption in a wide variety of scientific disciplines’. Sir Rex was awarded the Royal Society’s Davy Medal (1976) and Royal Medal (1986), and was knighted in 1977 for services to NMR spectroscopy.
Alongside his academic positions, Sir Rex was also Director of the Leverhulme Trust 1984-93, and was a former Trustee of the Tate Gallery and the National Gallery.