Richard Smalley

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Richard Errett Smalley (June 6, 1943 – October 28, 2005) was the Gene and Norman Hackerman Professor of Chemistry and a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Rice University, in Houston, Texas. In 1996, along with Robert Curl, also a professor of chemistry at Rice, and Harold Kroto, a professor at the University of Sussex, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of a new form of carbon, buckminsterfullerene ("buckyballs").


Early life

Smalley, the youngest of 4 siblings, was born in Akron, Ohio, and grew up in Kansas City, Missouri.

Smalley attended Hope College before transferring to the University of Michigan where he received his B.S. in 1965. Between his studies, he worked in industry, where he developed his unique managerial style. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1973. He completed postdoctoral work at the University of Chicago, with Lennard Wharton and Donald Levy, where he was a pioneer in the development of supersonic beam laser spectroscopy.

Fullerenes and nanotechnology

Smalley's research in physical chemistry investigated formation of inorganic and semiconductor clusters using pulsed molecular beams and time of flight mass spectrometry. As a consequence of this expertise, Robert Curl introduced him to Harry Kroto in order to investigate a question about the constituents of astronomical dust. These are carbon rich grains expelled by old stars such as R Corona Borealis. The result of this collaboration was the discovery of C60 and the fullerenes as the third allotropic form of carbon.

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