Editor's Note: Last month, Sir Harold Kroto, the Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Sussex in Brighton, U.K., along with Richard E. Smalley, the Hackerman Professor of Chemistry at Rice University and Robert F. Curl, Jr., also a professor of chemistry at Rice, received the Nobel Prize in chemistry in Stockholm. They were honored for their discovery of buckyballs, the now-famous soccer-ball-shaped molecules named for architect R. Buckminster Fuller and his geodesic domes. The 60-carbon-atom molecules are also called fullerenes.

Since the discovery of C60 almost 12 years ago, "buckyballs" have captured the imagination of scientists and the public alike. At first the existence of buckyballs drew much skepticism, but over the last decade they have grown into a flourishing area of research.

Few stories in the annals of contemporary science provide a stronger argument for pursuing fundamental research than the discovery of C60. In...

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