Curl and Smalley Win Nobel Prize in Chemistry

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Robert Curl, professor of chemistry, and Richard
Smalley, the Gene and Norman Hackerman Professor of Chemistry, have been awarded
the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

They will share the prize with Harold Kroto of the University of Sussex in
Brighton, England.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences recognized the scientists for their
discovery in 1985 of buckminsterfullerenes or carbon 60, the third molecular
form of carbon. Diamonds and graphite are the other two forms of carbon. Carbon
60 consists of 60 atoms of carbon arranged in hexagons and pentagons that
resemble a soccer ball or a geodesic dome.

Buckminsterfullerenes are extraordinarily stable and impervious to radiation
and chemical destruction. The molecule may provide the basis for new superstrong
yet light materials, semiconductors for computers, new drug delivery systems,
affordable solar cells and superconductors.

“Rice University is immensely proud of Rick Smalley and Bob Curl,” said Rice
President Malcolm Gillis. “They exemplify all of the finest aspirations of Rice
faculty and students. It is significant that Rice has always been the home of
their groundbreaking work in nanoscale research. Their discoveries, together
with the research of other Rice faculty, form the basis for our bold new
initiatives in nanoscale science and technology.”

“The entire Rice community joins with me in expressing our deep admiration
for all that Rick and Bob have done to realize this great achievement,” Gillis

Rice University Provost David Auston said, “This is a wonderful day for Rick
Smalley, Bob Curl, their colleagues and students, and for Rice University. The
1996 Nobel Prize in Chemisty recognizes an outstanding achievement in science,
one that exemplifies our commitment to basic research and to our new
interdisciplinary initiative in nanoscale science and technology. The discovery
and synthesis of a new material as unique as Carbon 60 and its many related
compounds is a rare event and one that will certainly lead to some very
important applications.”

Curl received a bachelor’s degree from Rice in 1954 and a doctorate from the
University of California, Berkeley in 1957. After graduation, he worked as a
research fellow with E. B. Wilson in microwave spectroscopy at Harvard
University until 1958. That year, he joined the Rice faculty as an assistant
professor of chemistry, in 1967 he became a full professor, and served as chair
of the chemistry department from 1992 to 1996.

In addition to his work at Rice, Curl has received many awards and honors
including the Clayton Prize of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in 1957;
and the Alexander Von Humboldt Senior U.S. Scientist Award from the University
of Bonn in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1984. In 1992, along with Smalley
and Kroto, he received the American Physical Society International Prize for New

Curl has been a visiting researcher at the National Research Council of
Canada and a visiting scientist at the Institute for Molecular Science in
Okazaki, Japan, the National Institute for Standards and Technology in Boulder,
the University of Bonn, and the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New

Smalley received a bachelor’s in 1965 from the University of Michigan and a
doctorate from Princeton in 1973. During a postdoctoral period with Lennard
Wharton and Donald Levy at the University of Chicago, he pioneered supersonic
beam laser spectroscopy.

Smalley came to Rice in 1976. He was one of the founders of the Rice Quantum
Institute in 1979 and served as chair of the institute from 1986 to 1996. He was
named the Gene and Norman Hackerman Professor in Chemistry in 1982. Since
January 1990, he has been a professor in the department of physics.

In 1990, he was elected to the National Academy of Science, and in 1991 to
the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has won numerous awards and prizes
for his work including the 1992 Robert A. Welch Award in Chemistry and the 1996
Franklin Medal.

Smalley is the director of the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology at
Rice, which will be housed in a new research and teaching building scheduled for
completion in July 1997.

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