Sunday, October 30, 2005

Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley of buckyball fame dies on Oct. 28, 2005

Richard Smalley, who shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in chemistry with Sir Harold Kroto and Richard Curl, died on Friday, Oct. 28, 2005 from his fight with lymphoma.

Scientific American reported:

Nobel laureate Richard E. Smalley, one of the co-discoverers of "buckyballs" and other fullerenes, died on Friday after years of intermittent struggle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Those of us who had a chance to work with him over the years, however briefly, are left saddened; he seemed like a good man. As his autobiographical entry for the Nobel Prize organization makes clear, he enjoyed a brilliant career long even before buckyballs and carbon nanotubes made him one of the most famous chemists of our time.

Scientific American quoted Smalley about his fight with lymphoma:

Let me give you just one, personal, example: cancer. I sit before you today with very little hair on my head. It fell out a few weeks ago as a result of the chemotherapy I've been undergoing to treat a type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma -- the same sort that recently killed King Hussein of Jordan. While I am very optimistic, this chemotherapy is a very blunt tool. It consists of small molecules which are toxic -- they kill cells in my body. Although they are meant to kill only the cancer cells, they kill hair cells too, and cause all sorts of other havoc.

Now, I'm not complaining. Twenty years ago, without even this crude chemotherapy I would already be dead. But twenty years from now, I am confident we will no longer have to use this blunt tool. By then nanotechnology will have given us specially engineered drugs which are nanoscale cancer-seeking missiles, a molecular technology that specifically targets just the mutant cancer cells in the human body, and leaves everything else blissfully alone. To do this these drug molecules will have to be big enough -- thousands of atoms -- so that we can code the information into them of where they should go and what they should kill. They will be examples of an exquisite, human-made nanotechnology of the future. I may not live to see it. But, with your help, I am confident it will happen.

The journal Small Times reported On Oct. 28:

Rick Smalley died today after a long battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was a good friend to many people in the nanotechnology community, including Small Times. In 2001, he agreed to make himself accessible for three days to be profiled in the inaugural issue of Small Times magazine. The company then had no name recognition, no print publications and only a few online readers.

He remained a stalwart advocate for this publication and for efforts by many others who he felt shared his dedication toward furthering nanotechnology. He also could be a biting critic of those whose views he found scientifically objectionable.

Rick Smalley will be remembered for his scientific genius, his relentless drive and commitment to achieving the best – the traits that make him a giant. Hopefully history will also recognize his other attributes: his great sense of humor, generous spirit and endless curiosity.

Patti Glaza had written in Small Times on October 11:

I'm sure I wasn't the only person attending a recent conference in California who saw the irony in Eric Drexler giving the plenary talk in place of the International Society of Optical Engineering's 2005 Visionary Award winner, Richard Smalley. Unfortunately, Smalley faced travel restrictions because of a cancer treatment he was undergoing. Needing to find a replacement quickly, conference organizers selected Drexler to lead off their nano session.


Smalley won a Nobel Prize for his part in discovering buckminsterfullerenes. Deciding that nanotubes had more application promise than buckyballs, Smalley has been actively driving research in "buckytubes" at Rice University. He is also an entrepreneur, starting Carbon Nanotechnologies Inc., a Texas-based supplier of – what else – carbon nanotubes.


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