UT Dallas Mourns Passing of Nobel Laureate
Alan G. MacDiarmid, 1927-2007
Endowed Chair at University for Nearly Five Years
RICHARDSON, Texas (Feb. 7, 2007) – The University of Texas at Dallas today mourned the passing of Nobel laureate and faculty member Alan G. MacDiarmid, 79, who died this morning in Philadelphia.
“Alan was an incredibly energetic, intellectually adventurous person who was always thinking about where the next advance in science would take us,” said UT Dallas President David E. Daniel. “His recent work in bio-fuels is particularly pioneering. When Alan joined UT Dallas nearly five years ago, he brought all the enthusiasm and energy anyone could imagine to his work. His tenure with the institution, though all too brief, enriched all who came in contact with him, from his research colleagues working in nanotech to the freshman science students he made a special point of meeting. We are very sad to lose a dear and valued friend.”
MacDiarmid, the 2000 Nobel laureate in chemistry, joined UT Dallas in August of 2002, when he filled the newly created James Von Ehr Distinguished Chair in Science and Technology. He had affiliated with the university a year earlier as a distinguished scholar-in-residence. MacDiarmid, who held professorial appointments in the Departments of Chemistry and Physics, was the second Nobel laureate to serve on the faculty of the 38-year-old institution.
The endowed chair which MacDiarmid held was created by a gift from James Von Her II, a UT Dallas alumnus and founder and CEO of Zyvex Corporation of Richardson, Texas, a pioneering company in the field of nanotechnology.
“Alan was friend and an inspiration,” Von Ehr said. “We have lost a great man, remarkable for his curiosity and drive, a great scientist, but even more, a genuine, warm person. There was nothing aloof about him.
“He loved to interact with students,” Von Ehr said. “They would come to his lectures and mob him afterward, just wanting to be in his presence, asking for his autograph. He used to bring his Nobel Prize medal and pass it around, letting them look at it and touch it. He once joked after one of those lectures where everyone had had a turn to hold the medal that there were many more Nobel prize ‘holders’ in the room.
“He saw inspiration of the next generation as an important part of his work, and he imbued those lucky enough to know him with his warmth and his great enthusiasm for life.”
MacDiarmid shared the 2000 Nobel Prize in chemistry with Alan Heeger and Hideki Shirakawa for their discoveries that plastics can be made electrically conductive, thus creating the field of conducting polymers, also known as “synthetic metals.” Some of the practical applications of his research include rechargeable batteries, gas sensors and light-emitting devices. In recent years, MacDiarmid pioneered research in the field of nanoelectronics and became a champion of the emerging field of renewable energy.
“Alan was a scientist whose work will impact humanity in the 21st Century,” said UT Dallas administrator Dr. Da Hsuan Feng, who was a longtime associate of MacDiarmid and was instrumental in bringing the Nobel laureate to the university. “Alan was a man who loved life, and by extrapolation, loved his fellow human beings.”
Born in New Zealand, MacDiarmid received an M.Sc. degree from the University of New Zealand and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Wisconsin, where he was a Fulbright Scholar, and Cambridge University. He was a longtime member of the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where he rose through the ranks to become the Blanchard Professor of Chemistry.
MacDiarmid wrote or co-wrote more than 600 research papers and holds 20 patents. He received numerous awards, medals and honorary degrees for his scientific achievements, including election to the National Academy of Sciences and to the National Academy of Engineering.
- Updated: February 7, 2007