University staff have paid tribute to a Nobel prize-winning former student who died aged 76.
Chemist Sir Harry Kroto, who studied at the University of Sheffield, was jointly credited with the discovery of a new form of carbon named Buckminsterfullerene. The molecule became popularly known as a ‘bucky ball’ because of its hollow football-like shape.
Sir Harry studied chemistry in Sheffield in the 1950s and 1960s, completing a PhD on molecular spectroscopy. He edited the University of Sheffield’s arts magazine and was president of the athletics council. He also met fellow student Margaret, who became his wife and was with him when he died on April 30.
The university’s vice chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett said he had learned of Sir Harry’s death ‘with the greatest sadness’,
He said: “Professor Sir Harry Kroto carried out scientific research which changed how we understand the world.
“He also taught others – his bucky ball workshops engaged children all around the world to learn more about science – and he kept on working right up to the end of his life, teaching and inspiring others.
“We will remember him in the work which continues in Sheffield and which carries his name - the Kroto Innovation Centre and the Kroto Research Institute. But many of us also met, worked with and felt deep affection and friendship for the man.
“Our deepest sympathies are with his wife Margaret and his sons, Stephen and David.”
Sir Harry won the Nobel prize for chemistry with his colleagues Richard Smalley and Robert Curl in 1996. It was their discovery of Buckminsterfullerene, named after the similarly-shaped domed buildings produced by the American architect Buckminster Fuller, which brought them global recognition.
Sir Harry’s work led to further discoveries of new carbon structures by many other scientists that have been used in all sorts of things, from drug delivery to strengthening tennis rackets.
He was born in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, after his parents fled Nazi Germany as refugees. He taught at the University of Sussex and Florida State University. In 1995, he set up the Vega Science Trust to create high quality science programmes for the public.