Sir Harry Kroto, FRS (1939-2016)

With sadness the department notes the passing of one of our most famous alumni (BSc 1961; PhD 1964), Sir Harold (Harry) Kroto, FRS, who died last Saturday, 30 April 2016. Harry Kroto was a good friend of the department and an inspiration for staff, collaborators, students and the school children he engaged with during one of his 'Kroto-days.' Please find below therefore the personal recollections of three of our members of staff, who had many direct interactions with him over the course of his (scientific) life.

Harry Kroto 1Prof. Patrick W. Fowler, FRS (collaborator & expert on fullerenes)

"Few scientists can expect to make a discovery that changes the landscape of their subject, but Harry Kroto was able to do just that. C60 was the first new allotrope of carbon found since classical times, and its identification sparked off something of a revolution in the chemistry and physics of this most well studied of all the elements.

Worldwide efforts inspired by the initial discovery led to fullerenes, exohedral, and endohedral derivatives, nanotubes, nanocones, peapods and ever more exotic structures. Graphene came as the latest addition to the carbon cornucopia. Thousands of papers in chemistry, physics, materials science and even mathematics attest to the impact of Kroto's work. His personal example of scientific rigour, enthusiasm and quirky humour will remain an inspiration to all of us who had the good fortune to work with him, or simply to attend his spectacular lectures."

Dr. Julie Hyde (Outreach Coordinator)

"I was deeply saddened to hear that Professor Sir Harry Kroto passed away this week. Since 2008 the Chemistry Department, its outreach and the Kroto Centre (Named after Sir Harry) and the outreach team worked together with Sir Harry to develop and run dedicated "Buckyball" days for primary children. Sir Harry was committed to outreach for the young and not only did he run these workshops in the UK, they were delivered world wide.

Kroto JuggleThe wonderful thing about the workshops was that Sir Harry attended in person. In fact, since 2008 he attended all of the Sheffield workshops. The children would be taken through the discovery of the Buckyball by a presentation lecture from him, then they would all make their own molecular model of a Buckyball which they got to take away and keep. In the Sheffield workshops the children would be in groups of 5, guided by a chemistry PhD student to help build the Buckyball. Sir Harry would then join each and every group. He would sit on the floor with the students, talk to them, and generally just inspire them. There would always be an element of competition into the molecular model building as to which group would complete their buckyballs first.

Sir Harry reached 100's of local Sheffield primary school children with these workshops over the last 8 years. The workshops were popular and part of their appeal was that Sir Harry was there to guide and talk to the pupils. He will be sadly missed. My thoughts are with Margaret his wife and his family."

Prof. Charles Stirling, FRS (personal friend)

"I had known Harry for some years before coming to Sheffield and was often rather shocked that his chemistry was not taken as seriously as it deserved. He stayed with us on visits to Sheffield and while our chemistries were miles apart, what we had so richly in common was his passion to communicate a love of chemistry to the public in general and children in particular. This was reinforced each year with his buckyball construction mornings with kids in the Kroto building. His nomination for an honorary degree presciently preceded the award of the Nobel prize and I was lucky enough to do the oration. Not only was he an extraordinarily imaginative chemist but also a gentle companionable aesthete. He will be sorely missed."

Finally, the department notes that it would be difficult to do full justice to the man and the scientist Harry Kroto was in the space of this article. Therefore, for a more complete overview of his life, we refer the reader to the complete obituaries that have already appeared in e.g. the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph as well as on the alumni pages of the University of Sheffield.