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Dr. Richard Errett Smalley

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Nobel Laureate and Rice University Professor Dr. RICHARD ERRETT SMALLEY, PH.D. passed away on Friday, the 28th of October 2005, after a seven-year battle with Leukemia. He was 62. His extraordinary scientific contributions were recognized by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1996 with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery in 1985 of the Carbon 60 molecule, Buckminsterfullerene, which he nicknamed "Buckyball." He shared the prize with Rice University Professor Robert Curl, and Sir Harold Kroto of the University of Sussex. At the ceremony, Smalley named two people who made vital contributions to their research, James R. Heath, Ph.D. and C. Sean O'Brien, Ph.D who were then Rice graduate students. Smalley was born June 6, 1943 in Akron, Ohio, to Frank Dudley Smalley, Jr., and Esther Virginia Rhoads and was the youngest of four children. His interest in science began in his early teens while his mother was working on her Bachelor degree. Together they collected single-cell organisms from a local pond and studied them with a microscope sparking his long scientific career. He began his academic career at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and later transferred to the University of Michigan where he earned a B.S. Degree in Chemistry in 1965. After an intervening four-year period as a research chemist with Shell, he resumed his studies at Princeton University and earned his M.S. in Chemistry in 1971 and a Ph.D. in 1973. During a postdoctoral period with Lennard Wharton and Donald Levy at the University of Chicago, he pioneered what has become one of the most powerful techniques in chemical physics; supersonic beam laser spectroscopy. He joined Rice University in 1976 and was named to the Gene and Norman Hackerman Chair in Chemistry in 1981. He was a founder of the Rice Quantum Institute in 1979, and served as the Chairman from 1986 to 1996. In 1990 he became a Professor in the Department of Physics and was appointed University Professor in 2002. Smalley was the founding director of the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice in 1993, and became the Director of the Carbon Nanotechnology Laboratory in 1992. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was the recipient of many other awards including the 1991 Irving Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics, the 1992 International Prize for New Materials, the 1992 E.O. Lawrence Award of the U.S. Department of Energy, the 1992 Robert A. Welch Award in Chemistry, the 1993 William H. Nichols Medal of the American Chemical Society, the 1993 John Scott Award of the City of Philadelphia, the 1994 Europhysics Prize, the 1994 Harrison Howe Award, the 1995 Madison Marshall Award, the 1996 Franklin Medal, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, the 1997 Distinguished Public Service Medal awarded by the US Department of the Navy, the 2002 Glenn T. Seaborg Medal, the 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award of Small Times Magazine, the 2005 Distinguished Alumni Award from Hope College, and the 2005 SPIE Visionary Award. He received three honorary degrees in 2004 an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Richmond; a Doctor Scientiarum Honoris Causa from Technion Israel Institute of Technology, and a Doctor of Science from Tuskegee University. Rice University President David Leebron said of his passing, "We will miss Rick's brilliance, commitment, energy, enthusiasm, and humanity. He epitomized what we value at Rice: path breaking research, commitment to teaching, and contribution to the betterment of our world. In important ways, Rick helped build and shape the Rice University of today. His extraordinary scientific contributions, recognized with the Nobel Prize, will form the foundation of new technologies that will improve life for millions. His life's work and his brave fight against a terrible disease were an inspiration to all." He is survived by his bride, Deborah Sheffield Smalley, two sons, Chad Richard Smalley and Preston Reed Smalley; two sisters, Linda Rings and Mary Jill Olson; one brother, Clayton Smalley, two step-daughters, Eva Kluber & Alison Kluber, and one granddaughter, Bridget Burkhaulter. Friends are cordially invited to a visitation with the family from five o'clock in the afternoon until eight o'clock in the evening on Tuesday, the 1st of November, in the Library of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston. The funeral service will be conducted at one o'clock in the afternoon on Wednesday, the 2nd of November, in the Sanctuary of Second Baptist Church, 6400 Woodway Drive in Houston, with Rev. Ben Young officiating. A reception will immediately follow in the adjacent Deacons' Parlor. In lieu of usual remembrances, the family has suggested that memorials be directed to the Smalley-Curl Fund for Innovation, in care of Rice University, P. O. Box 1892 (MS100), Houston, TX, 77251-1892.

Published in Houston Chronicle on Oct. 31, 2005
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