Archive for Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1996

R.I.P. Harry Kroto (1939-2016)

Posted in Biographical, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , on May 1, 2016 by telescoper


I heard earlier this afternoon of the death at the age of 76 of the distinguished chemist Sir Harry Kroto.

Along with Robert Curl and Richard Smalley,  Harry Kroto was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996 for the discovery of the C60 structure that became known as Buckminsterfullerene (or the “Buckyball” for short).

Harry had a long association with the University of Sussex and was a regular visitor to the Falmer campus even after he moved to the USA.

I remember first meeting him in the 1988 when, as a new postdoc fresh out of my PhD, I had just taken over organising the Friday seminars for the Astronomy Centre. One speaker called off his talk just an hour before it was due to start so I asked if anyone could suggest someone on campus who might stand in. Someone suggested Harry, whose office was  nearby in the School of Molecular Sciences (now the Chichester Building). I was very nervous as I knocked on his door – Harry was already famous then – and held out very little hope that such a busy man would agree to give a talk with less than an hour’s notice. In fact he accepted immediately and with good grace gave a fine impromptu talk about the possibility that C60 might be a major component of interstellar dust. If only all distinguished people were so approachable and helpful!

I met him in campus more recently a couple of years ago when we met to talk about some work he had been doing on a range of things to do with widening participation in STEM subjects. I remember I had booked  an hour in my calendar but we talked for at least three. He was brimming with ideas and energy then. It’s hard to believe he is no more.

Harry Kroto was a man of very strong views  and he was not shy in expressing them. He cared passionately about science and was a powerful advocate for it. He will be greatly missed.

Rest in peace, Harry Kroto (1939-2016)