Professor Sir Harry Kroto, FRS 1939-2016

Sir Harry KrotoIt is with the greatest sadness that I have learned of the death of an exceptional Scientist, graduate and true friend of The University of Sheffield, Professor Sir Harry Kroto.

The world knows Harry Kroto as a Nobel Prize winner, recognised for the discovery of a third form of carbon (alongside diamond and graphite) which he named ‘Buckminsterfullerene’. However, Harry came to this University in 1958 as a student of Chemistry. It was here he completed his PhD, focusing on molecular spectroscopy. This was the University where he edited the University’s Arts magazine and became President of our Athletics Council. And it was here he met his fellow student, Margaret, who became his wife and the loving companion who was such a wonderful support to the end of his life.

Professor Sir Harry Kroto carried out scientific research which changed how we understand the world. He also taught others – his Buckyball workshops engaged children all around the world to learn more about science – and he kept on working right up to the end of his life, teaching and inspiring others.

We will remember him in the work which continues in Sheffield and which carries his name - the Kroto Innovation Centre and the Kroto Research Institute. But many of us also met, worked with and felt deep affection and friendship for the man. Our deepest sympathies are with his wife Margaret and his sons, Stephen and David.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield


Professor Sir Harry Kroto, FRS 1939-2016

Professor Sir Harry Kroto

It is with great sadness that we have received the news of the death of Professor Sir Harold Kroto – the Nobel Prize winning chemist, alumnus, honorary graduate and firm friend of the University.

Harry, as he was known, was born on 7 October 1939 and raised in Bolton before coming to Sheffield on the recommendation of his sixth form chemistry teacher. He joined the University in 1958 to study chemistry, but also explored his passion for design when he took up a position as the art editor of Arrows, the University’s arts magazine. On completion of his undergraduate degree, he then went on to complete a PhD, focussing on molecular spectroscopy, an area he continued to work on throughout his life. In his final year he was President of the Athletics Council after three years of playing first team tennis. It was also during this year that he married Margaret while the couple were both studying at the University.

After his PhD, Sir Harry completed post-doctoral work in Canada and the United States, before moving to the University of Sussex to continue his research, where he became Professor of Chemistry in 1985. It was around this time that he had been conducting research into allotropes – different atomic structures – of carbon. This work, which was first published in Nature in 1985, revealed the discovery of a third form of carbon (alongside diamond and graphite) which he named ‘Buckminsterfullerene’, and which won him the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, which he shared with Professors Robert Curl Jr. and Richard Smalley. In recognition of his contribution to science he was knighted in 1996.

Sir Harry continued his research and teaching at Sussex for several years, before going back to the United States to work at Florida State University, continuing to investigate carbon vapour (the means by which Buckminsterfullerene forms) and the implications of the molecule for chemistry, material science, and nanotechnology. The University of Sheffield awarded Sir Harry an Honorary Doctorate of Science in 1995 in recognition of his achievements, and has since named two buildings after him: the Kroto Innovation Centre and the Kroto Research Institute.

Our thoughts are with Sir Harry’s family, including his wife Margaret and his two sons, Stephen and David.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, paid tribute to Sir Harry:

“It is with the greatest sadness that I have learned of the death of an exceptional Scientist, graduate and true friend of The University of Sheffield, Professor Sir Harry Kroto.

“The world knows Harry Kroto as a Nobel Prize winner, recognised for the discovery of a third form of carbon (alongside diamond and graphite) which he named ‘Buckminsterfullerene’. However, Harry came to this University in 1958 to study Chemistry. It was here he completed his PhD, focusing on molecular spectroscopy. This was the University where he edited the University’s Arts magazine and became President of our Athletics Council. And it was here he met his fellow student, Margaret, who became his wife and the loving companion who was such a wonderful support to the end of his life.

“Professor Sir Harry Kroto carried out scientific research which changed how we understand the world. He also taught others – his Buckyball workshops engaged children all around the world to learn more about science - and he kept on working right up to the end of his life, teaching and inspiring others.

“We will remember him in the work which continues here in Sheffield which carries his name - the Kroto Innovation Centre and the Kroto Research Institute. But many of us also met, worked with and felt deep affection and friendship for the man. Our deepest sympathies are with his wife Margaret and his sons, Stephen and David.”


Please click here to view a Photo Album of Sir Harry's visits to the Kroto Research Institute.