Date of Interview

February 2, 2008


Sarwat Aziz Abbasi


Sir Harold (Harry) Walter Kroto, NL


Bentham Science

Sir Harold Kroto
Nobel Laureate

Sir Harold (Harry) Walter Kroto won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996 for the discovery of fullerenes. Recently, I interviewed him during the 1st International Conference on Drug Design & Discovery held in Dubai in February 2008, where some 11 Nobel Laureates including Sir Kroto were invited for an exclusive session scheduled at the Higher Colleges of Technology, Abu Dhabi. I owe thanks to Sir Kroto for his kindness and support.


1. Tell us something briefly about your background.

Sir Kroto: I was born in Wisbech (a very small town in Cambridge shire to which my mother was evacuated) on Oct 7th 1939 in the first month of the War so I was a war baby. I started to develop an unhealthy interest in chemistry during enjoyable lessons with Dr. Wilf Jary. Like almost all chemists, I was also attracted by the smells and bangs that endowed chemistry with that slight but charismatic element of danger which is now banned from the classroom. I became ever more fascinated by chemistry - particularly organic chemistry - and was encouraged by the sixth form chemistry teacher (Harry Heaney, now Professor at Loughborough) to go to. Sheffield University because he reckoned it had, at the time, the best chemistry department in the UK. In 1965 after a further year of flash photolysis/spectroscopy in Don Ramsay's laboratory, where I discovered a singlet-singlet electronic transition of the NCN radical and worked


on pyridine which turned out to have a no planar excited state (still to be fully published!), I transferred to Cec Costain's laboratory because Ihad developed a fascination for microwave spectroscopy.
Gradually I realized that many in the field were stronger at physics than chemistry and in retrospect I subconsciously recognized that there might be a niche for me in spectroscopy research if I could exploit my relatively strong chemistry background.
The discovery of C60 in 1985 caused me to shelve my dream of setting up a studio specializing in scientific graphic design (I had been doing graphics semiprofessionally for years and it was clear that the computer was starting to develop real potential as an artistically creative device). I never dreamed of winning the Nobel Prize - indeed I was very happy with my scientific work prior to the discovery of C60 in 1985. The creation of the first molecules with carbon/ phosphorus double bonds and the



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