Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1996

Robert F. Curl Jr, Sir Harold W. Kroto and Richard E. Smalley

for their discovery of fullerenes

[R. Smalley]

Richard E. Smalley
Born Akron, Ohio, 6 June 1943, died 28 October 2005

Richard Smalley graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1965 and then spent 4 years working in industry as a research chemist. In 1969 he moved to Princeton to study for a PhD in the Department of Chemistry, working with Elliot R. Bernstein. His research project was a detailed study of 1,3,5-triazine. He was awarded an MS in 1971 and a PhD in 1973.

During a postdoctoral period with Lennard Wharton and Donald Levy at the University of Chicago, he pioneered what has become one of the most powerful techniques in chemical physics - supersonic beam laser spectroscopy. In 1976 he moved to Houston, Texas, to take up a position as Assistant Professor in the Chemistry Department at Rice University where Robert F. Curl was working on laser spectroscopy. They produced a sequence of pioneering advances applicable for making and characterizing very cold supersonic beams of large molecules, radicals and atomic clusters having precisely known numbers of atoms. In August 1985, Smalley and Curl were joined by Harold Kroto from the University of Sussex for a short summer project to study interesting carbon cluster distributions found by Andrew Kaldor at Exxon using an apparatus constructed by Smalley's group. After a legendary late night of taping together cardboard cutouts of hexagons and pentagons on his kitchen table, using Kroto's insights into the importance of five-carbon rings, Smalley presented the carbon `soccer ball' as the only sensible way that 60 carbon atoms could be assembled to produce the observed spectra.

In 1990 he became a Professor in the Department of Physics and was appointed University Professor in 2002. He was the founding director of the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice in 1993, and was Director of the new Carbon Nanotechnology Laboratory at Rice. In 1990 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and in 1991 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Richard Smalley won many awards, including the 1991 Irving Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics, the 1992 International Prize for New Materials, the 1992 E.O. Lawrence Award of the US Department of Energy, the 1992 Robert A. Welch Award in Chemistry, the 1993 William H. Nichols Medal of the American Chemical Society, the 1993 John Scott Award of the City of Philadelphia, the 1994 Europhysics Prize, the 1994 Harrison Howe Award, the 1995 Madison Marshall Award, the 1996 Franklin Medal, the Distinguished Public Service Medal awarded by the US Department of the Navy in 1997, the 2002 Glenn T. Seaborg Medal, and the 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award of Small Times Magazine. He received three honorary degrees in 2004 - an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Richmond, a Doctor Scientiarum Honoris Causa from Technion Israel Institute of Technology and a Doctor of Science from Tuskegee University.

The information on this page is based on content at © The Nobel Foundation, and For further information see the Smalley Institute `About our Founder' web page. Photo credit Tommy LaVergne/Rice University

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