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Fellows Directory

Harold Kroto

Harold Kroto

Sir Harold Kroto FRS


Elected: 1990




Harry Kroto was a chemist who, with American colleagues, discovered a new form of carbon that he termed Buckminsterfullerene or ‘buckyball’. They generated this C60 molecule by vaporising graphite and proposed its football-like structure. In 1996, Harry was knighted for services to chemistry, and later that year he and his US colleagues were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

The discovery arose from his earlier finding with Sussex and Canadian colleagues that long carbon chains were abundant in space and some red giant stars. Work on new thiocarbonyl molecules was followed by studies with Sussex colleagues to create the first phosphaalkenes and phosphaalkynes — molecules containing phosphorus–carbon double and triple bonds, which they detected by microwave.

Harry also used television and the Internet to enrich science education both in general and in schools, setting up the Vega Science Trust and GEOSET, the Global Educational Outreach for Science Engineering and Technology initiative. He was President of the Royal Society of Chemistry from 2002–2004, and was a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences.

Sir Harold Kroto FRS died on 30 April 2016.

Biographical Memoir

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Chemistry
    • Chemistry, physical, Chemistry, general
  • Astronomy and physics
    • Astronomy


Spectroscopy , Fullerene Chemistry, Molecular Radioastronomy, New compounds involving Carbon to Sulphur or Phosphorus multiple bonds, cluster science


  • Blackett and Jagdish Chandra Bose Memorial Lectures

    On 'Science, a round peg in a square world'.

  • Copley Medal

    In recognition of his seminal contributions to understanding the fundamental dynamics of carbon chain molecules, leading to the detection of these species (polyynes) in the interstellar medium by radioastronomy, and thence to the genesis of a new era in carbon science.

  • Michael Faraday Prize and Lecture

    For his dedication to the notion of working scientists being communicators of their work and in particular for his establishment of the Vega Science Trust whose films and related activities reflect the excitement of scientific discovery to the public.

  • Nobel Prize in Chemistry

    Jointly with Robert F. Curl Jr. and Richard E. Smalley for their discovery of fullerenes.

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