Nobel Prize Winner Inspires Next Generation
Wednesday, 12 June 2013
Professor Sir Harry Kroto, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, has returned to Bolton School for the third time in five years to promote science and learning to over 800 local school children.
Sir Harry who is an Old Boy of the School and was in the same class as Sir Ian McKellen, ran a morning workshop for 440 Year 3 and 4 children from eight local primary schools. After a presentation detailing the wonders of science, which focussed on some of the most important discoveries and scientists, Sir Harry had groups of children set about the hands-on task of constructing representations of the carbon molecule, C60 Buckminsterfullerene or "buckyballs". This was the molecule that Sir Harry and a team of scientists discovered at Rice University and that led to them being awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996. It led to the exploration of a new field of chemistry, involving the study of fullerenes.
In the afternoon session, secondary school pupils learnt about the life of Sir Harry and his passion for science and art and design and of the importance of pursuing a wide range of interests. Talking about some of his own passions that he has pursued throughout his life – art, science, design, gymnastics, tennis, music, film and many other subjects – he said it is important to keep your options open. His own determination to understand how things work and to do a good job had driven him throughout his life. He had also found that by having a wide range of interests, they often synthesised together when he was working on projects.
His boundless enthusiasm for his subject and for life made the day fun and science accessible to everyone in the audience. Sir Harry, now aged 73, takes his workshops and lectures worldwide and last year he lectured on 86 occasions.
Dr Michael Yates, Head of Chemistry in the Boys’ Division, said: “It is quite rare for children to meet a ‘Sir’ and a Nobel Prize Winner in the same day so this has been an exciting day for the pupils. Sir Harry went around and shook all their hands and I am sure he will have inspired a new generation of scientists!”
Sir Harry was supported throughout the day by his colleague Dr Jonathan Hare, who appears regularly on tv in the BBC’s Rough Science programme. Dr Hare gave a captivating lecture on how science is portrayed in Hollywood films, marking three films on whether the science would actually work in real life - Waterworld ran out as the winner!
The day of fun activities and lectures was sponsored by the Ogden Trust Science Partnership, an initiative between local schools and universities which aims to promote science and engineering to young people. In the evening there was a three course dinner, hosted by Sir Harry, in Bolton School’s Arts Centre, which was attended by local teachers, academics from the University of Manchester and representatives from the Museum of Science and Industry.
Sir Harry is the Francis Eppes Professor of Chemistry at the Florida State University, which he joined in 2004. Prior to that, he spent a large part of his career at the University of Sussex, where he now holds an emeritus professorship. He focuses heavily on using the Internet as a learning tool. His work with the Vega Science Trust has seen him and other scientists put presentations and learning materials online which can be viewed at: http://vega.org.uk/