Elected in 2002
“For the co-discovery and development of conductive polymers.”
BY RAY H. BAUGHMAN
ALAN GRAHAM MACDIARMID, who shared the 2000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Alan Heeger and Hideki Shirakawa, died on February 7, 2007, at age 79.
His fundamental and applied discoveries ushered in the second age of polymers, in which organic polymers became fully functional electronic materials. His mentorship and encouragement inspired generations of students. He taught them that “theories come and go, but the facts go on forever, so you have to get the facts correct.”
Alan was born in New Zealand on April 14, 1927, to loving parents and a supportive family impoverished by the Great Depression. Though getting food on the table was difficult, they shared what little they had with friends and neighbors. This tradition of giving even when it was very difficult was in Alan’s makeup, and he believed that winning the Nobel Prize gave him a special obligation to advance humankind. While suffering from frequent skin cancer, a broken hip, and a blood disease that was expected to soon end his life, he nonetheless struggled ahead on the day of his death to begin a 10-day trip to New Zealand for keynote lectures, governmental meetings, a television interview, and a likely last farewell to family.
Alan never forgot his origins; he went barefoot to primary school in a two-room schoolhouse, where he reported, “Most of my school chums were Maori boys and girls from whom I