Richard Smalley


Richard Smalley : biography

June 6, 1943 – October 28, 2005
  1. Energy
  2. Water
  3. Food
  4. Environment
  5. Poverty
  6. Terrorism & war
  7. Disease
  8. Education
  9. Democracy
  10. Population

Compare to Ten Threats formulated by the U.N.’s High Level Threat Panel in 2004.

Smalley died of leukemia on October 28, 2005, at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, at the age of 62. Upon his death, the US Senate passed a resolution to honor Smalley, crediting him as the “Father of Nanotechnology.”



  • Harold W. Dodds Fellow, Princeton University, 1973
  • Alfred P. Sloan Fellow, 1978–1980
  • Fellow of the American Physical Society, 1987
  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2003

Awards and prizes

  • Irving Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics, American Physical Society, 1991
  • Popular Science Magazine Grand Award in Science & Technology, 1991
  • APS International Prize for New Materials, 1992 (Joint with R. F. Curl & H. W. Kroto)
  • Ernest O. Lawrence Memorial Award, U.S. Department of Energy, 1992
  • Welch Award in Chemistry, Robert A. Welch Foundation, 1992
  • Auburn-G.M. Kosolapoff Award, Auburn Section, American Chemical Society, 1992
  • Southwest Regional Award, American Chemical Society, 1992
  • William H. Nichols Medal, New York Section, American Chemical Society, 1993
  • The John Scott Award, City of Philadelphia, 1993
  • Hewlett-Packard Europhysics Prize, European Physical Society, 1994
  • Harrison Howe Award, Rochester Section, American Chemical Society, 1994
  • Madison Marshall Award, North Alabama Section, American Chemical Society, 1995
  • Franklin Medal, The Franklin Institute, 1996
  • Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 1996
  • Rice University Homecoming Queen, Rice University Undergraduates, 1996 (according to , confirmed by Smalley’s official CV at )
  • Distinguished Civilian Public Service Award, Department of the Navy, 1997
  • American Carbon Society Medal, 1997
  • Top 75 Distinguished Contributors, Chemical & Engineering News, 1998
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Small Times Magazine, 2003
  • Glenn T. Seaborg Medal, University of California at Los Angeles, 2002
  • Distinguished Alumni Award, Hope College, 2005
  • 50th Anniversary Visionary Award, SPIE – International Society for Optical Engineering, 2005


Smalley believed in Old Earth creationism, which supports the theory that the Earth is billions of years old:

"Recently I have gone back to church regularly with a new focus to understand as best I can what it is that makes Christianity so vital and powerful in the lives of billions of people today, even though almost 2000 years have passed since the death and resurrection of Christ. Although I suspect I will never fully understand, I now think the answer is very simple: it’s true. God did create the universe about 13.7 billion years ago, and of necessity has involved Himself with His creation ever since. The purpose of this universe is something that only God knows for sure, but it is increasingly clear to modern science that the universe was exquisitely fine-tuned to enable human life. We are somehow critically involved in His purpose. Our job is to sense that purpose as best we can, love one another, and help Him get that job done.”

Following his death, the publishers of the Old Earth creationism book "Who Was Adam" issued a news release that said: "Evolution has just been dealt its death blow. After reading ‘Origins of Life’, with my background in chemistry and physics, it is clear evolution could not have occurred. The new book, ‘Who Was Adam?’, is the silver bullet that puts the evolutionary model to death.” As quoted by a news release issued after his death by the publishers of "Who Was Adam" At the Tuskegee University’s 79th Annual Scholarship Convocation/Parents’ Recognition Program he made the following statement regarding the subject of evolution while urging his audience to take seriously their role as the higher species on this planet. 2004-10-03 “The burden of proof is on those who don’t believe that ‘Genesis’ was right, and there was a creation, and that Creator is still involved. We are the only species that can destroy the Earth or take care of it and nurture all that live on this very special planet. I’m urging you to look on these things. For whatever reason, this planet was built specifically for us. Working on this planet is an absolute moral code. … Let’s go out and do what we were put on Earth to do." Old Earth creationist and astronomer Hugh Ross spoke at Smalley’s funeral, November 2, 2005. Speakers: James Tour, Hugh Ross and Ben Young, 2005-11-02, mp3 audio]


  • Smalley, R.E. , Rice University, United States Department of Energy–Office of Energy Research, (Oct. 14, 1997).
  • Smalley, R.E. , Rice University, United States Department of Energy—Office of Basic Energy Sciences, (Jan. 1, 1985).

Early life

Smalley, the youngest of 4 siblings, was born in Akron, Ohio, and grew up in Kansas City, Missouri.

Smalley attended Hope College before transferring to the University of Michigan where he received his B.S. in 1965. Between his studies, he worked in industry, where he developed his unique managerial style. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1973. He completed postdoctoral work at the University of Chicago, with Lennard Wharton and Donald Levy, where he was a pioneer in the development of supersonic beam laser spectroscopy.