Sir Harold Walter Kroto FRS (born Harold Walter Krotoschiner; 7
October 1939 – 30 April 2016), known as Harry Kroto, was an English
chemist. He shared the 1996
Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Robert Curl
Richard Smalley for their discovery of fullerenes. He was the
recipient of many other honors and awards.
Kroto held many positions in academia throughout his life, most
Francis Eppes Professor of
Chemistry at the Florida State
University, which he joined in 2004. Prior to this, he spent a large
part of his career at the University of Sussex, where he held an
Kroto promoted science education and was a critic of religious faith.
1 Early years
2 Education and academic career
Research at the University of Sussex
2.3 Discovery of buckminsterfullerene
Research at Florida State University
2.5 Educational outreach and public service
3 Personal life
3.1 Personal beliefs
3.2 Graphic design
3.3 Death and reactions
4 Honours and awards
4.1 Major awards
4.2 Honorary degrees
6 External links
Kroto was born in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, England, to Edith and Heinz
Krotoschiner, with his name being of Silesian origin. His
father's family came from Bojanowo, Poland, and his mother's from
Berlin. Both of his parents were born in Berlin and fled to Great
Britain in the 1930s as refugees from Nazi Germany; his father was
Jewish. Harry was raised in
Bolton while the British authorities
interned his father on the
Isle of Man
Isle of Man as an enemy alien during World
War II and attended
Bolton School, where he was a contemporary of
the actor Ian McKellen. In 1955, Harold's father shortened the family
name to Kroto.
As a child, he became fascinated by a
Meccano set. Kroto credited
Meccano, as well as his aiding his father in the latter's balloon
factory after World War II — amongst other things — with
developing skills useful in scientific research. He developed an
interest in chemistry, physics, and mathematics in secondary school,
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 in the United Kingdom,
he went to Sheffield.
Although raised Jewish,
Harry Kroto stated that religion never made
any sense to him. He was a humanist who claimed to have three
religions: Amnesty Internationalism, atheism, and humour.
He was a distinguished supporter of the British Humanist
Association. In 2003 he was one of 22 Nobel Laureates who signed
the Humanist Manifesto.
In 2015, Kroto signed the
Mainau Declaration 2015 on Climate Change on
the final day of the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. The
declaration was signed by a total of 76 Nobel Laureates and handed to
then-President of the French Republic, François Hollande, as part of
the successful COP21 climate summit in Paris.
Education and academic career
Kroto was educated at
Bolton School and went to the University of
Sheffield in 1958, where he obtained a first-class honours BSc degree
Chemistry (1961) and a PhD in Molecular
During his time at Sheffield he also was the art editor of "Arrows"
– the University student magazine, played tennis for the University
team (reaching the UAU finals twice) and was President of the Student
Athletics Council (1963–64). Among other things such as making the
first phosphaalkenes (compounds with carbon phosphorus double bonds),
his doctoral studies included unpublished research on carbon suboxide,
O=C=C=C=O, and this led to a general interest in molecules containing
chains of carbon atoms with numerous multiple bonds. He started his
work with an interest in organic chemistry, but when he learned about
spectroscopy it inclined him towards quantum chemistry; he later
developed an interest in astrochemistry.
After obtaining his PhD, Kroto spent two-years in a postdoctoral
position at the National
Research Council in Ottawa, Canada carrying
out further work in molecular spectroscopy, and also spent the
subsequent year at
Bell Laboratories in New Jersey (1966–1967)
carrying out Raman studies of liquid phase interactions and worked on
Research at the University of Sussex
In 1967, Kroto began teaching and research at the University of Sussex
in England. During his time at Sussex from 1967 to 1985, he carried
out research mainly focused on the spectroscopic studies of new and
novel unstable and semi-stable species. This work resulted in the
birth of the various fields of new chemistry involving carbon multiply
bonded to second and third row elements e.g. S, Se and P. A
particularly important breakthrough (with Sussex colleague John Nixon)
was the creation of several new phosphorus species detected by
microwave spectroscopy. This work resulted in the birth of the
field(s) of phosphaalkene and phosphaalkyne chemistry. These species
contain carbon double and triple bonded to phosphorus (C=P and
In 1975, he became a full professor of Chemistry. This coincided with
laboratory microwave measurements with Sussex colleague David Walton
on long linear carbon chain molecules, leading to radio astronomy
observations with Canadian astronomers revealing the surprising fact
that these unusual carbonaceous species existed in relatively large
abundances in interstellar space as well as the outer atmospheres of
certain stars – the carbon-rich red giants.
Discovery of buckminsterfullerene
In 1985, on the basis of the Sussex studies and the stellar
discoveries, laboratory experiments (with co-workers James R. Heath,
Sean C. O’Brien, Yuan Liu,
Robert Curl and
Richard Smalley at Rice
University) which simulated the chemical reactions in the atmospheres
of the red giant stars demonstrated that stable C60 molecules could
form spontaneously from a condensing carbon vapour. The
co-investigators directed lasers at graphite and examined the
results. The C60 molecule is a molecule with the same
symmetry pattern as a football, consisting of 12 pentagons and 20
hexagons of carbon atoms. Kroto named the molecule
Buckminster Fuller who had conceived of
the geodesic domes, as the dome concept had provided a clue to the
likely structure of the new species.
In 1985, the C60 discovery caused Kroto to shift the focus of his
research from spectroscopy in order to probe the consequences of the
C60 structural concept (and prove it correct) and to exploit the
implications for chemistry and material science.
This research is significant for the discovery of a new allotrope of
carbon known as a fullerene. Other allotropes of carbon include
graphite, diamond and graphene. Harry Kroto's 1985 paper entitled
"C60: Buckminsterfullerine", published with colleagues J. R. Heath, S.
C. O’Brien, R. F. Curl, and R. E. Smalley, was honored by a Citation
for Chemical Breakthrough Award from the Division of History of
Chemistry of the American Chemical Society, presented to Rice
University in 2015. The discovery of fullerenes was recognized
in 2010 by the designation of a National Historic Chemical Landmark by
American Chemical Society
American Chemical Society at the Richard E. Smalley Institute for
Nanoscale Science and Technology at
Rice University in Houston,
Research at Florida State University
In 2004, Kroto left the
University of Sussex
University of Sussex to take up a new position
Francis Eppes Professor of
Chemistry at Florida State
University. At FSU he carried out fundamental research on: Carbon
vapour with Professor Alan Marshall; Open framework condensed
phase systems with strategically important electrical and magnetic
behaviour with Professors Naresh Dalal (FSU) and Tony Cheetham
(Cambridge); and the mechanism of formation and properties of
nano-structured systems. In addition, he participated in
research initiatives at FSU that probed the astrochemistry of
fullerenes, metallofullerenes, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in
stellar/circumstellar space, as well as their relevance to
Educational outreach and public service
In 1995, he jointly set up the Vega Science Trust, a UK educational
charity that created high quality science films including lectures and
interviews with Nobel Laureates, discussion programmes, careers and
teaching resources for TV and Internet Broadcast. Vega produced over
280 programmes, that streamed for free from the Vega website which
acted as a TV science channel. The trust closed in 2012.
Sir Harold Kroto at
In 2009, Kroto spearheaded the development of a second science
education initiative, Geoset. Short for the Global Educational
Outreach for Science, Engineering and Technology, GEOSET is an
ever-growing online cache of recorded teaching modules that are freely
downloadable to educators and the public. The program aims to increase
knowledge of the sciences by creating a global repository of
educational videos and presentations from leading universities and
In 2003, prior to the Blair/Bush invasion of Iraq on the pretext that
Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, Kroto initiated and organised
the publication of a letter to be signed by a dozen UK Nobel Laureates
and published in the Times. It was composed by his friend the Nobel
Peace Prize Laureate the late
Joseph Rotblat and published in The
Times on 15 February 2003.
He wrote a set of articles, mostly opinion pieces, from 2002–2003
for the Times Higher Education Supplement, a weekly UK
From 2002–2004, Kroto served as President of the
Royal Society of
Chemistry. In 2004, he was appointed to the Francis Eppes
Professorship in the chemistry department at Florida State University,
carrying out research in nanoscience and nanotechnology.
He spoke at
Auburn University on 29 April 2010, and at the James A.
Baker III Institute for Public Policy at
Rice University with Robert
Curl on 13 October 2010.
In October 2010 Kroto participated in the USA Science and Engineering
Festival's Lunch with a Laureate program where middle and high school
students had the opportunity to engage in an informal conversation
with a Nobel Prize–winning scientist.
He spoke at Mahatma Gandhi University, at Kottayam, in Kerala, India
in January 2011, where he was an 'Erudite' special invited lecturer of
the Government of Kerala, from 5 to 11 January 2011.
Kroto spoke at
CSICon 2011, a convention "dedicated to scientific
inquiry and critical thinking" organized by the Committee for
Skeptical Inquiry in association with
Skeptical Inquirer magazine and
the Center for Inquiry. He also delivered the IPhO 2012 lecture at
Physics Olympiad held in Estonia.
In 2014, Kroto spoke at the
Starmus Festival in the Canary Islands,
delivering a lecture about his life in science, chemistry, and
In 1963, he married Margaret Henrietta Hunter, also a student of the
University of Sheffield
University of Sheffield at the time. The couple had two sons: Stephen
and David. Throughout his entire life, Kroto was a lover of film,
theatre, art, and music and published his own artwork.
Kroto was a "devout atheist" who thought that beliefs in
immortality derive from lack of the courage to accept human
mortality. He was a patron of the British Humanist Association.
He was a supporter of Amnesty International. He referred to his
view that religious dogma causes people to accept unethical or
inhumane actions: "The only mistake Bernie Madoff made was to promise
returns in this life." He held that scientists had a
responsibility to work for the benefit of the entire species. On
15 September 2010, Kroto, along with 54 other public figures, signed
an open letter published in The Guardian, stating their opposition to
Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to the UK.
Kroto was an early Signatory of Asteroid Day.
In 2008, Kroto was critical of
Michael Reiss for directing the
teaching of creationism alongside evolution.
Kroto praised the increase of organized online information as an
"Educational Revolution" and named it as the "GooYouWiki" world
referring to Google,
One of Kroto's favourite quotes was: "I believe in Spinoza's God who
reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God
who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings." said
by Albert Einstein,
The discovery of buckminsterfullerene caused Kroto to postpone his
dream of setting up an art and graphic design studio – he had been
doing graphics semi-professionally for years. However, Kroto's graphic
design work resulted in numerous posters, letterheads, logos,
book/journal covers, medal design, etc. He produced artwork after
receiving graphic awards in the Sunday Times Book Jacket Design
competition (1964) and the Moet Hennesy/Louis Vuitton Science pour
l'Art Prize (1994). Other notable graphical works include the
design of the Nobel UK Stamp for Chemistry (2001) and features at
the Royal Academy (London) Summer Exhibition (2004).
Death and reactions
Kroto died on 30 April 2016 in Lewes,
East Sussex from complications
of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at the age of 76. He was surrounded
by family and close friends.
Richard Dawkins wrote a memorial for chemist Kroto where he mentioned
Kroto's "passionate hatred of religion." The Wall Street Journal
described him as "(spending much of his later life) jetting around the
world to extol scientific education in a world he saw as blinded by
Zack Kopplin related a story about how Kroto
gave him advice and support to fight Louisiana’s creationism law, a
law that allows public school science teachers to attack evolution and
how Kroto defended the scientific findings of global warming. In
an obituary published in the journal Nature,
Robert Curl and James R.
Heath described Kroto as having an:
impish sense of humour similar to that of the British comedy group
Honours and awards
Kroto won numerous awards, individually and with others:
Tilden Lecturer of the
Royal Society of Chemistry, 1981–82
Fellow of the Royal Society
Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1990
International Prize for New Materials American Physical Society, 1992
Robert Curl and Richard Smalley)
Italgas Prize for Innovation in Chemistry, 1992
Royal Society of
Chemistry Longstaff Medal, 1993
Hewlett Packard Europhysics Prize, 1994 (with Wolfgang Kraetschmer,
Don Huffman and Richard Smalley)
Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1996 (shared with
Robert Curl and Richard
Carbon Medal, American Carbon Society Medal for Achievement in Carbon
Science, 1997 (shared with
Robert Curl and Richard Smalley)
Blackett Lectureship (Royal Society), 1999
Faraday Award and Lecture (Royal Society), 2001
Dalton Medal (Manchester Lit and Phil), 1998
Erasmus Medal of Academia Europaea, 2002
Copley Medal of the Royal Society, 2002
Order of Cherubini (Torino), 2005
Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences, 2007
Kavli Lecturer, 2007
National Historic Chemical Landmark, American Chemical Society,
Citation for Chemical Breakthrough Award, Division of History of
Chemistry, American Chemical Society, 2015
Kroto was made a
Knight Bachelor in the 1996 New Year Honours
University of Sheffield
University of Sheffield North Campus contains two buildings named
after Kroto: The
Kroto Innovation Centre and the Kroto Research
Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium)
University of Stockholm (Sweden)
University of Limburg (now Hasselt University) (Belgium)
University of Sheffield
University of Sheffield (UK)
University of Kingston (UK)
University of Sussex
University of Sussex (UK)
University of Helsinki (Finland)
University of Nottingham (UK)
Yokohama City University (Japan)
University of Sheffield-Hallam (UK)
University of Aberdeen (Scotland)
University of Leicester (UK)
University of Aveiro (Portugal)
University of Bielefeld (Germany)
University of Hull (UK)
Manchester Metropolitan University (UK)
Hong Kong City University (HK China)
Gustavus Adolphus College (Minnesota, US)
University College London (UK)
University of Patras (Greece)
University of Dalhousie (Halifax, NovaScotia, Canada)
University of Strathclyde (Scotland)
University of Manchester (UK)
Kraków Mining University (Poland)
University of Durham (UK)
Queens University Belfast (NI)
University of Surrey (UK)
Polytechnico di Torino (Italy)
University of Chemical Technology – Beijing (China)
University of Liverpool (UK)
Florida Southern College (US)
Keio University (Japan)
University of Chiba (Japan)
University of Hartford (US)
University of Tel Aviv (Israel)
University of Poitiers (France)
Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Naresuan University (Thailand)
Vietnam National University (Hanoi)
Edinburgh University (UK)
University of Primorska (Slovenia)
Returned due to closure of
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^ "Tiny buckyball grown around metal atom".
^ "Buckyballs grow by gobbling up carbon".
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an Order−Disorder Hydrogen Bonding Transition in Metal−Organic
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transfer". Nature Communications. 5: 5844.
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Formation from Condensing Carbon Gas under Conditions of Stellar
Outflows and Implication to Stardust". Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 110:
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Harry Kroto.
Harry Kroto personal website
Sir Harold W. Kroto at Florida State University
Harry Kroto at University of Sheffield
Videos from Vega Science Trust
Sir Harold Kroto - Biographical from NobelPrize.org
"Richard E. Smalley, Robert F. Curl, Jr., and Harold W. Kroto".
Science History Institute.
Fellows of the
Royal Society elected in 1990
David A. Brown
Malcolm H. Chisholm
Robin Jon Hawes Clark
John G. Collier
Simon Conway Morris
Andrew C. Crawford
Nicholas C. Handy
Hugh Allen Oliver Hill
Steven V. Ley
Michael E. McIntyre
Derek W. Moore
Colin James Pennycuick
John Albert Raven
David J. Read
Man Mohan Sharma
George R. Stark
William Lionel Wilkinson
Robert Hughes Williams
Edward Norton Lorenz
E. O. Wilson
Bengt I. Samuelsson
Copley Medallists (2001–present)
Jacques Miller (2001)
John Pople (2002)
John Gurdon (2003)
Harry Kroto (2004)
Paul Nurse (2005)
Stephen Hawking (2006)
Robert May (2007)
Roger Penrose (2008)
Martin Evans (2009)
David Cox /
Tomas Lindahl (2010)
Dan McKenzie (2011)
John E. Walker (2012)
Andre Geim (2013)
Alec Jeffreys (2014)
Peter Higgs (2015)
Richard Henderson (2016)
Andrew Wiles (2017)
Laureates of the
Nobel Prize in Chemistry
1901 Jacobus van 't Hoff
1902 Emil Fischer
1903 Svante Arrhenius
1904 William Ramsay
1905 Adolf von Baeyer
1906 Henri Moissan
1907 Eduard Buchner
1908 Ernest Rutherford
1909 Wilhelm Ostwald
1910 Otto Wallach
1911 Marie Curie
Victor Grignard / Paul Sabatier
1913 Alfred Werner
1914 Theodore Richards
1915 Richard Willstätter
1918 Fritz Haber
1920 Walther Nernst
1921 Frederick Soddy
1922 Francis Aston
1923 Fritz Pregl
1925 Richard Zsigmondy
1926 Theodor Svedberg
1927 Heinrich Wieland
1928 Adolf Windaus
Arthur Harden / Hans von Euler-Chelpin
1930 Hans Fischer
Carl Bosch / Friedrich Bergius
1932 Irving Langmuir
1934 Harold Urey
Frédéric Joliot-Curie / Irène Joliot-Curie
1936 Peter Debye
Norman Haworth / Paul Karrer
1938 Richard Kuhn
Adolf Butenandt / Leopold Ružička
1943 George de Hevesy
1944 Otto Hahn
1945 Artturi Virtanen
James B. Sumner
James B. Sumner / John Northrop / Wendell Meredith Stanley
1947 Robert Robinson
1948 Arne Tiselius
1949 William Giauque
Otto Diels / Kurt Alder
Edwin McMillan / Glenn T. Seaborg
Archer Martin / Richard Synge
1953 Hermann Staudinger
1954 Linus Pauling
1955 Vincent du Vigneaud
1956 Cyril Hinshelwood / Nikolay Semyonov
1957 Alexander Todd
1958 Frederick Sanger
1959 Jaroslav Heyrovský
1960 Willard Libby
1961 Melvin Calvin
Max Perutz / John Kendrew
Karl Ziegler / Giulio Natta
1964 Dorothy Hodgkin
1965 Robert Woodward
1966 Robert S. Mulliken
Manfred Eigen / Ronald Norrish / George Porter
1968 Lars Onsager
Derek Barton / Odd Hassel
1970 Luis Federico Leloir
1971 Gerhard Herzberg
Christian B. Anfinsen
Christian B. Anfinsen /
Stanford Moore / William Stein
Ernst Otto Fischer
Ernst Otto Fischer / Geoffrey Wilkinson
1974 Paul Flory
John Cornforth / Vladimir Prelog
1976 William Lipscomb
1977 Ilya Prigogine
1978 Peter D. Mitchell
Herbert C. Brown
Herbert C. Brown / Georg Wittig
Paul Berg /
Walter Gilbert / Frederick Sanger
Kenichi Fukui / Roald Hoffmann
1982 Aaron Klug
1983 Henry Taube
1984 Robert Merrifield
Herbert A. Hauptman
Herbert A. Hauptman / Jerome Karle
Dudley R. Herschbach
Dudley R. Herschbach /
Yuan T. Lee
Yuan T. Lee / John Polanyi
Donald J. Cram
Donald J. Cram /
Jean-Marie Lehn / Charles J. Pedersen
Johann Deisenhofer /
Robert Huber / Hartmut Michel
Sidney Altman / Thomas Cech
1990 Elias Corey
1991 Richard R. Ernst
1992 Rudolph A. Marcus
Kary Mullis / Michael Smith
1994 George Olah
Paul J. Crutzen
Paul J. Crutzen /
Mario J. Molina
Mario J. Molina / Frank Rowland
Robert Curl / Harold Kroto / Richard Smalley
Paul D. Boyer
Paul D. Boyer /
John E. Walker / Jens Christian Skou
Walter Kohn / John Pople
1999 Ahmed Zewail
Alan J. Heeger /
Alan MacDiarmid / Hideki Shirakawa
2001 William Knowles / Ryoji Noyori / K. Barry Sharpless
2002 John B. Fenn /
Koichi Tanaka / Kurt Wüthrich
Peter Agre / Roderick MacKinnon
Aaron Ciechanover /
Avram Hershko / Irwin Rose
Robert H. Grubbs
Robert H. Grubbs /
Richard R. Schrock
Richard R. Schrock / Yves Chauvin
2006 Roger D. Kornberg
2007 Gerhard Ertl
Osamu Shimomura /
Martin Chalfie / Roger Y. Tsien
Venkatraman Ramakrishnan /
Thomas A. Steitz
Thomas A. Steitz / Ada E. Yonath
Richard F. Heck
Richard F. Heck / Akira Suzuki / Ei-ichi Negishi
2011 Dan Shechtman
Robert Lefkowitz / Brian Kobilka
Martin Karplus /
Michael Levitt / Arieh Warshel
Eric Betzig /
Stefan Hell / William E. Moerner
Tomas Lindahl /
Paul L. Modrich
Paul L. Modrich / Aziz Sancar
Jean-Pierre Sauvage /
Fraser Stoddart / Ben Feringa
Jacques Dubochet /
Joachim Frank / Richard Henderson
Nobel Prize laureates
Robert F. Curl Jr. (United States)
Harold W. Kroto (United Kingdom)
Richard E. Smalley (United States)
Wisława Szymborska (Poland)
Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo
Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo (East Timor)
José Ramos-Horta (East Timor)
David Morris Lee (United States)
Douglas D. Osheroff (United States)
Robert Coleman Richardson
Robert Coleman Richardson (United States)
Physiology or Medicine
Peter C. Doherty
Peter C. Doherty (Australia)
Rolf M. Zinkernagel
Rolf M. Zinkernagel (Switzerland)
James Mirrlees (United Kingdom)
William Vickrey (Canada/United States)
Nobel Prize recipients
Royal Society of Chemistry
Applied Catalysis Award
Beilby Medal and Prize
Charles Rees Award
De Gennes Prize
Faraday Lectureship Prize
Harrison-Meldola Memorial Prizes
Edward Harrison Memorial Prize
John B Goodenough Award
Lord Lewis Prize
Ludwig Mond Award
Materials for Industry - Derek Birchall Award
Nyholm Prize for Education
Perkin Prize for Organic Chemistry
Robert Boyle Prize for Analytical Science
Sir George Stokes Award
Education in Chemistry
Environmental Science and Technology
The Merck Index
Annual Reports on the Progress of Chemistry
Catalysis Science & Technology
Catalysts and Catalysed Reactions
Chemical Society Reviews
Proceedings of the Chemical Society
Research and Practice
Energy and Environmental Science
Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts
...of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry
...of Materials Chemistry
...of the Chemical Society
A: Inorganic, Physical, Theoretical
B: Physical Organic
D: Chemical Communications
Faraday Transactions 1
Faraday Transactions 2
Perkin Transactions 1
Perkin Transactions 2
...of the Royal Institute of Chemistry
Jubilee of the Chemical Society
Lab on a Chip
Memoirs and Proceedings of the Chemical Society
Memoirs of the
Chemical Society of London
Methods in Organic Synthesis
Natural Product Reports
Natural Product Updates
New Journal of Chemistry
Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry
Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences
Chemistry Chemical Physics
Proc. Chemical Society, London
John Mason Ward
John Howard Purnell
Edward William Abel
Sir Harold Kroto
Royal Institute of Chemistry
Society for Analytical Chemistry
ISNI: 0000 0001 1451 8749
BNF: cb12361762x (data)