Monday, 7 October 2013

Britain is still a country for and says "Happy Birthday" to an old Professor of Chemistry, known for his buckminsterfullerene, called Harry Kroto

In 1996, at the age of 57, Harry shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Robert Curl and Richard Smalley, has been working as Professor of Chemistry at the Florida State University since 2004, but spent the lion's share of his career at the University of Sussex where he now holds an emeritus professorship.

What you possibly didn't know about Harry, that he :

* was born in Wixsbech, Cambridgeshire, in October 1939, just after the outbreak of the Second World War, the son of Edith and Heinz Krotoschiner, who from Berlin in German and Jewish Polish families, came to Britain in the 1930s
as refugees from the Hitler and the Nazis.

*  was raised in Bolton Lancashire and as a child, he became fascinated by a Meccano set which he later partly credited  with developing skills useful in scientific research and attended Bolton School where he was a contemporary of the actor Ian McKellen and at the age of 16 became Harry 'Kroto' when the family was shortened.

* developed an interest in chemistry, physics and maths and, because his sixth form chemistry teacher, Harry Heaney, who subsequently became a university professor, felt that the University Of Sheffield had the best chemistry department, went there to study his degree and doctorate.

* began teaching and research at the University of Sussex when I was a 20 year old undergraduate there in 1967 and he was 28 and no doubt taught my old friend K.M. who was studying biochemistry and became a full professor in 1975.

* in the 1980s he launched a research programme to look for carbon chains in the interstellar medium and devised an experiment to prove that carbon stars could produce the chains and, with colleagues, discovered the buckminsterfullerene and the related class of molecules.

* in 1995, jointly set up the 'Vega Science Trust', an educational charity making science films including lectures, interviews with Nobel Laureates and discussion programmes which stream for free from the Vega website..

* although raised Jewish, has said that religion never made any sense to him and is a distinguished supporter of the British Humanist Association calling himself a 'devout atheist' and in 2010, along with 54 other public figures, signed an open letter stating their opposition to Pope Benedict's state visit to Britain.

* also in 20010, met pupils from Bolton School at a performance of 'Waiting for Godot 'with that other old pupil, Ian McKellen, who was starring in the show.

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