../1198/space%20holder

 

../1198/space%20holder

Previous Gazetteer item | Next Gazetteer item | Mar/Apr Contents | Gazette home




HONORS

Nobel, Nobel, on the Wall …

Photo by Jim Graham

Science is people,” Dr. Alan MacDiarmid, the Blanchard Professor of Chemistry, was saying in his resonant, New Zealand-accented baritone. “You can have the most beautiful buildings and you can have the most beautiful laboratories—but you have to have the right people working in those laboratories.”

MacDiarmid, winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in chemistry [see “The Boy Chemist at 75” on page 36], was himself one of the “right people” being honored at the January unveiling of the chemistry department’s Alumni and Faculty Hall of Fame, located in the section of the Chemistry Building known as the Pit. A few minutes after he spoke, MacDiarmid and several members of the faculty and administration pulled levers on makeshift curtains to reveal the photographic portraits of six Nobel Laureates connected with Penn’s chemistry department. Next to the photo of MacDiarmid was that of Dr. Hideki Shirakawa, who collaborated with MacDiarmid in the early stages of their work on conductive polymers when he was a postdoctoral researcher at Penn in 1976-77. (The third member of Penn’s Nobel troika in 2000 was former Physics Professor Alan Heeger, now at the University of California-Santa Barbara.) Beside the photos of MacDiarmid and Shirakawa were those of Dr. Ahmed Zewail Gr’74 Hon’97, the 1999 Nobel Laureate in chemistry; Dr. Stanley Prusiner C’64 M’68 Hon’98, the 1997 Nobel Laureate in medicine; Dr. Michael S. Brown C’62 M’66 Hon’86, who won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1985; and the late Dr. Christian B. Anfinsen Jr. G’39 Hon’73, for whom the Nobel tolled in 1972.

And, as Dr. Hai-Lung Dai, professor and chair of chemistry, pointed out, the empty wall on the other side of the Pit “provides ample space” for the portraits of future Nobel winners. (Perhaps a future Laureate will occupy the new Alan MacDiarmid Endowed Term Chair, to be held by a mid-career scholar in the chemistry department. The chair was funded by another prominent Penn chemist: Dr. P. Roy Vagelos C’50, retired chairman and CEO of Merck & Co. and former chairman of the University’s trustees.)

Dr. Judith Rodin CW’66, president of the University, predicted that the new Hall of Fame “will soon be known as the Cooperstown of Chemistry.” And by “paying homage to six extraordinary scientists in our Penn family,” she added, “we also celebrate the faculty of one of the finest chemistry departments in the world.”

One quality that both the faculty and the “prize alumni” share, she said, was courage—“the courage to push ahead with a difficult experiment, even against stiff resistance from an often skeptical scientific community.”


Previous Gazetteer item | Next Gazetteer item | Mar/Apr Contents | Gazette home

Copyright 2002 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 2/28/02