Lon Knight

Lon Knight

Professor Emeritus, Chemistry

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Lon Knight began his teaching and research career in 1971 at Furman University after receiving his Ph.D. in physical chemistry at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. He served as the Chemistry Department Chair for 33 years, beginning in 1981. He received Furman's Meritorious Teaching Award in 2006. He also served as Faculty President from 1991-93 and played a prominent role in planning the new $62.5 million science facility completed in 2008, now known as the Charles H. Townes Science Center.

Dr. Knight was one of the first faculty nationwide at an undergraduate institution to be awarded a regular National Science Foundation (NSF) research grant award and has received nine such highly competitive grants over his career. In 1989, he received the national American Chemical Society Award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution and the South Carolina Governor’s Award for Excellence in Scientific Research in the same year. His leadership role in trapping reactive molecules near absolute zero is exemplified by his selection as Vice Chair and Chair in 1991 and 1995, respectively, of the international Gordon Research Conferences on this topic. He has published more than 100 research papers in the top national and international journals with all of the work being conducted jointly with Furman undergraduate science students.

Dr. Knight’s favorite non-science activities include skiing, table tennis, and racquetball, which provided opportunities for him to become more closely acquainted with Furman students, who are the most rewarding dimension of his career.

After 48 years of service to Furman, Dr. Knight retired in May 2019 and is now Professor Emeritus. He continues activities and projects in the Chemistry Department.


  • Ph.D., University of Florida
  • B.S., Mercer University

Lon Knight's research involves the study of highly reactive molecules which are trapped near absolute zero in a magnetic field. The spectroscopic area is called electron spin resonance (ESR). The results of these laboratory measurements reveal the detailed electronic structure of both neutral and charged molecular radicals. He has collaborated with world-class theoretical scientists to better fully understand and interpret the physical measurements. For example, his work in this field was the first to reveal the electronic structure of the all-important water cation radical (H2O+). More recent studies have focused on the simplest molecule in nature, the one-electron H2+ molecular radical. During these studies, the important interstellar H4+ and H6+ molecules were discovered and studied by the matrix isolation ESR method. The key to these research studies is to devise a high energy generation method to create the desired molecule. Dr. Knight and his students have utilized several high energy generation methods, including pulsed laser vaporization, x-irradiation, high energy microwave plasmas, electron bombardment and high temperature Knudsen cells operating at nearly 3000 K (half the temperature of the sun's surface).