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learned so much.”* In their honor and in the celebration of life, Alan danced the spirited Maori haka at the all-night student celebration ending the Nobel Prize ceremonies and at many other celebrations until he died.

Alan’s love of chemistry began because of his thirst for knowledge and understanding, which lasted a lifetime and enabled him to do pioneering research in diverse fields of chemistry, physics, biology, materials science, and engineering. At the age of 10, he began reading his father’s chemistry textbook from the late 1800s and performing experiments from The Boy Chemist, which he discovered in a library.

When he had to leave high school at 16 to help support his family, he found a part-time job as a lab assistant and janitor in the chemistry department of Victoria University College in New Zealand. Alan began his academic career there, earning a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. He earned doctorates from the University of Wisconsin and Cambridge University and subsequently became a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. His initial pioneering breakthroughs in Cambridge and Philadelphia were in silicon chemistry, which earned him the 1971 Frederic Stanley Kipping Award of the American Chemical Society. He became professor of chemistry and James Von Ehr Distinguished Chair in Science and Technology at the University of Texas at Dallas in 2002. The same year he became a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences and was inducted into the Order of New Zealand, the highest honor bestowed by his country of birth.

The voyage that led to the Nobel Prize for the discovery of conducting organic polymers began long ago. While at Victoria University College and just starting his career, Alan MacDiarmid published his first paper in 1949, which was on the cyclic monomer S4N4. Much later, in 1973, Mort Labes’s team at Temple University showed that an inorganic polymer derived from S4N4, called (SN)x, is metallic down to 4 K. Alan MacDiarmid and Alan Heeger subsequently reported in 1977 that bromine doping increased the room temperature electrical conductivity of (SN)x 10-fold.


* From nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2000/macdiarmidautobio.html.



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