Kroto, Sir Harold Walter

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KROTO, SIR HAROLD WALTER (1939– ), U.K. chemist and Nobel laureate. He was born in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, the son of refugees from Nazi Germany. When he was one year old, his family moved to Bolton, Lancashire, where he was educated at Bolton School. He graduated with a B.Sc. (1961) from the University of Sheffield where he also gained his Ph.D. with a thesis on the spectroscopy of free radicals under the supervision of Richard Dixon (1964). After postdoctoral research with the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa (1964–66) and Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill, New Jersey (1966–67), he joined the department of chemistry of the University of Sussex where he became professor (1985–91) and Royal Society Research Professor (1991). He later worked in the department of physics, chemistry, and environmental science of the University of Sussex. His main research interest was spectroscopy and its application to the study of carbon molecules in many research areas. He and his colleagues founded the field of fullerene science after their discovery that some carbon molecules (C60) self-assemble spontaneously at high temperatures into spheres resembling the Geodisic Dome designed by Buckminster Fuller. The crucial collaborative work was completed over ten days in 1985. The appearance and symmetrical composition of these macromolecules are aesthetically appealing to organic chemists and laymen alike. His later research involved the rapidly expanding field of fullerenes, radioastronomy, the evolution of carbon-based molecules, and the implications for virology, biological systems, and the origins of life on Earth and possibly elsewhere in the universe. Kroto was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry (1996) with Robert Curl and Richard Smalley. Subsequently Kroto and his colleagues established the University of Sussex as a major center in the growing field of nanotechnology that seeks to analyze and simulate the micro-architecture of biological structures. Kroto had a deep interest in science education in schools and universities and was the founding co-chairperson of the Vega Trust, a non-profit organization for producing programs for scientific education. His many honors included election to the Royal Society of London, the Longstaff Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry (1993), the Royal Society's Copley Medal (2004), and a knighthood. Krota also had a great interest in graphic design and his awards in this field included winner of the Sunday Times book jacket design competition (1994) and the Louis Vuitton Science pour l'Art Prize (1994). Krota was a humanist and a strong supporter of human rights and organizations such as Amnesty International.

[Michael Denman (2nd ed.)]