Sir Harold W. Kroto
1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
University of Sussex

Sir Harold W. Kroto shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in chemistry for the discovery of "fullerenes"—previously unidentified forms of carbon molecules. Using microwave spectroscopy, Kroto had discovered an abundance of long-chained carbon molecules in interstellar space that he postulated had been formed in the stellar atmospheres of red giant stars. Experimenting in 1985 with the vaporization and cluster formation of carbon in a simulated atmosphere, he and his colleagues noted that certain dominant cluster sizes, which were so stable that they suspected a highly symmetrical, closed-shell structure. Identification of the fullerenes opened a new branch of chemistry with consequences in such diverse areas as astrochemistry, physics, superconductivity, and materials science.

Kroto was born in Cambridgeshire, England, the son of refugees from Berlin. He attended the University of Sheffield, earning a Ph.D. there (1964) in high-resolution spectroscopy. He began his academic career as a lecturer at the University of Sussex in 1967, becoming Royal Society Research Professor in 1991. His honors include election to the Royal Society (1990), the International Prize for New Materials from the American Physical Society (1992), and the Hewlett Packard Europhysics Prize (1994). He was knighted in 1996.

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