I was personally saddened to learn of the death of the Richard E. Smalley of Rice University, the man who found and named buckyballs, at the age of 62. I interviewed Dr. Smalley in the summer of 1995, a year before he won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, for my 1997 book To the Young Scientist.
Rick Smalley was a gracious man who took the time to speak directly to my readers through me. What I found most remarkable was that he never imagined achieving any of the success he enjoyed in his too-brief career.
Here are the opening limerick of my Smalley chapter and a quotation from his interview.
As a buckminsterfullerene maker,
He’s a molecule-building ground breaker.
Yet in high school, his record
Was certainly checkered.
Now he’s truly a “mover and shaker.”
“I don’t think that most people thought I would amount to anything when I was a high schooler. Neither did I, frankly. . . . I never thought I would even get a job, let alone be a scientist, let alone [be] lucky enough to have been in areas that have had an impact so far beyond my expectations.”