Sussex chemist’s Nobel Prize commemorated with blue plaque at University of Sussex
By: Stephanie Allen
Last updated: Friday, 17 June 2022
A former University of Sussex Professor and Nobel Prize winner has been commemorated with a Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) blue plaque unveiled on campus on Friday 17 June.
The late Professor Sir Harry Kroto FRS was awarded the pinnacle of scientific achievement; a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996 for his discovery of a new form of carbon, Buckminsterfullerene. This new form was made up of 60 carbon atoms, and termed C60 or the Buckyball – due to its composition of pentagons and hexagons which resembled that of a football and the architecture of Buckminster Fuller. The discovery was especially remarkable as, up until that point, pure carbon was only known to exist as diamond or graphite, not as a molecule.
The discovery, which Sir Harry readily acknowledged was only possible due to collaboration with other scientists, was closely followed by that of larger carbon cage structures and nanotubes, arguably sparking off the whole new area of nanotechnology.
Professor Sir Harry Kroto joined the University of Sussex, in their newly formed School of Chemistry and Molecular Sciences, in 1967. 2021 marked the 25th anniversary of the Nobel Prize and to commemorate, a chemical landmark blue plaque awarded by the Royal Society of Chemistry has been unveiled on the Falmer campus, on the Chichester building. It is the first blue plaque to have been awarded for four years by the RSC, and takes place during the University’s 60th year.
Professor David Maguire, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex said: “Professor Sir Harry Kroto was an inspiration to many with his Nobel Prize-winning discovery as well as his passion for teaching Chemistry; evidenced in the fact that many of our current researchers at Sussex were once students of his.
“We are proud that the Royal Society of Chemistry has awarded a chemical landmark blue plaque to Sir Harry. This provides the campus community with a way to commemorate both his scientific achievements and commitment to the power of education to bring about real and positive change in society.”
The Royal Society of Chemistry Chemical Landmark plaques mark sites where people in the chemistry community have made significant contributions to making the world a better place.
The first was awarded in 1980 and there are now nearly 70 plaques around the UK. They celebrate the diverse people who make up the chemistry community, as well as their work and impact.
Dr Helen Pain, CEO of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “Harry inspired so many people with his vision for chemistry and passion for outreach. He was at the forefront of change and at the RSC we have so much to thank him for.”
The day was a celebration of Sir Harry’s passion for science and for promoting science engagement. Before the plaque unveiling, Sir Harry’s former PhD students, who are now professional science communicators, led an outreach event for local school children. An afternoon of research talks followed the unveiling with experts from the University of Sussex, Penn State University, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Basel. Sir Harry’s wife, Lady Margaret Kroto, also helped to announce the winner of the Kroto Award for Public Engagement; an internal award for staff from the School of Life Sciences.
Professor Hazel Cox, Professor of Theoretical and Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Sussex said: "Harry was a thoughtful, creative, and invigorating colleague, his enthusiasm for chemistry and public engagement was contagious and inspirational. We’re absolutely delighted that this plaque will be installed to recognise and commemorate his pioneering work and significant contribution to the chemical sciences."
Sir Harry continues to inspire researchers both at Sussex, and around the world. Find out more about his discovery and work here.