Russell Boyd was born in Kelowna, the centre of British Columbia's wine-producing and fruit-growing Okanagan Valley.
He graduated in 1967 from the University of British Columbia with first-class honours in chemistry and the Lefevre Gold Medal. As one of the first recipients of a 1967 Science Scholarship (introduced in 1967 by the National Research Council of Canada to celebrate Canada's centennial), he went east to pursue his PhD in Theoretical Chemistry at McGill University. Upon receiving his PhD in 1971 he went to Oxford University as an NRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the Mathematical Institute. He returned to the University of British Columbia where he held a Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Chemistry from 1973 to 1975.
Dr. Boyd joined Dalhousie University as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry in 1975 and rose through the ranks to become a Professor in 1985. He has served as Chair of Chemistry from 1992 to 2005. He was named a Faculty of Science Killam Professor in 1997 and in 2001 became the seventh holder of the Alexander McLeod Chair of Chemistry. The McLeod Chair, one of the oldest named professorships in chemistry in Canada, was created in 1884 in accordance with a bequest from Alexander McLeod.