Ronald Cavell graduated from McGill University in 1958 with a BSc Honours in chemistry, and received his Masters in 1960 and PhD from the University of British Columbia. From 1962–1964, he studied as a NATO Postdoctoral Fellow at Cambridge University, receiving a PhD in 1964. After joining the Department of Chemistry at the University of Alberta in 1964, he became a full professor in 1974, and emeritus professor of chemistry in 2004. Awarded a fellowship in the Chemical Institute of Canada in 1975, in 1979, he received the CIC’s inaugural Alcan Lecture Award for distinguished contributions in inorganic or electrochemistry in Canada. The University of Alberta awarded him the 1993–1994 McCalla Research Professorship.
Cavell played an active role in the CSC Inorganic Chemistry Division in multiple offices. He was a founding member of the Canadian Institute for Synchrotron Radiation (CISR), formed to establish the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan, and of the Alberta Synchrotron Institute. He served on the management committees of the Canadian Synchrotron Radiation Facility, the Pacific Northwest Consortium at the Advanced Photon Source, the Alberta Center for Surface Engineering and Science, and the Canadian Center for Isotopic Microanalysis, all of which he was instrumental in establishing. As a founding member of the CLS’s Board of Directors, he helped guide the facility from concept and design through to construction. In recognition of those efforts, he received the Saskatchewan government’s prestigious Saskatchewan Distinguished Service Award in March 2009.
Cavell’s productive scientific career saw the publication of over 240 articles, 9 patents for systems of metal complexes applied to homogeneous catalysis, the graduation from his lab of numerous masters and PhD students and post-doctoral fellows, and well-enjoyed collaboration with colleagues around the globe.