Alan MacDiarmid, UT Dallas' Nobel Prize-winner, Dies at 79

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Alan MacDiarmid, at left, received the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2000 from the King of Sweden, Carl Gustaf.

The name Alan G. MacDiarmid's probably unfamiliar to you; it was to me until this morning, when I stumbled across his obituary on the University of Texas at Dallas' Web site. Then, I am not a smart man, so there's no reason why I would know of the accomplishments of this 2000 Nobel Prize-winning chemist, who, says his UT Dallas obit, shared the award with two others for having created "synthetic metals," which is a plastic that conducts electricity like, well, metal. Didn't know what that was either till I read the piece; all you need to know is that synthetic metals are used in everything from rechargeable batteries to the cellphones' bright-light displays to gas sensors to what one news account describes as "the antistatic coating on photographic film." So, that sounds useful.

MacDiarmid was 79 and died yesterday at his home in Philadelphia, after he fell while rushing to make a plane. He was preparing for a trip to New Zealand, where MacDiarmid was from. Reports The New York Times this morning in an obit far more thorough than the one found in Dallas' Only Daily, "Dr. MacDiarmid was ill with myelodysplastic syndrome, a leukemia-like disease, and had expected to live only a few weeks, during which he wanted to go to New Zealand to say goodbye to his siblings, his wife said."

MacDiarmid had been with UTD since 2002. In the schools's official release, president David E. Daniel said of MacDiarmid, "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." Services here and in Pennsylvania are pending. This morning, you might rather enjoy spending a few minutes reading the charming, poignant autobiography MacDiarmid wrote in 2000, upon receiving the Nobel Prize. I had no idea who MacDiarmid was when I woke up; now, I kind of miss the guy. --Robert Wilonsky


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