Alan MacDiarmid, 1927-2007

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The Victoria University community is today mourning the death of alumnus and Nobel Laureate Professor Alan MacDiarmid who died yesterday (7 February 2007).

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Pat Walsh, says Professor MacDiarmid’s death is a great loss to New Zealand and to the international science community.

“He made a great contribution to science and education. Although his discoveries, including those in conductive polymers which won him the Nobel Prize, will continue to improve lives around the world, and advancements will continue, this is small consolation to his family and colleagues at this sad time. New Zealand, Victoria, the scientific community and his family have lost a great scientist and a great man.”

For an autobiography of Professor MacDiarmid see: /macdiarmid-autobio.html

Professor Walsh said Professor MacDiarmid was an active supporter of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials & Nanotechnology at Victoria University, which is named after him.

“Alan never forgot his roots as a New Zealander and a Victoria alumnus and was scheduled to speak at the AMN-3 International Conference for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology organised by the Institute and to be held in Wellington from 11-16 February.”

Born in Masterton and raised in the Hutt Valley and Kerikeri, Professor MacDiarmid had a typical New Zealand upbringing, with a high work ethic and family values instilled in him by has parents.

At around age ten, he developed an interest in chemistry from one of his father’s old textbooks, and he taught himself from this book and from library books. He later worked as an assistant in the Chemistry Department of Victoria. He graduated from Victoria in 1951 with first-class honours, and won a Fulbright Fellowship to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study for a PhD, which he received in 1953. He received another PhD, from the University of Cambridge, in 1955. He worked in the School of Chemistry at the University of St Andrews and later at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Texas at Dallas.

Professor MacDiarmid maintained a laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, though he mostly travelled around the world for speaking engagements that impressed upon listeners the value of globalising the effort of innovation in the 21st Century.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2000, along with Alan Heeger and Hideki Shirakawa, for the discovery and development of conductive polymers, unique ‘plastic’ materials that can conduct electricity.

He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Victoria in 1999 and in 2001 received New Zealand’s highest honour, the Order of New Zealand.

For further information and comment please contact Professor Paul Callaghan, Director of The MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, on 463 5945 or 027 609 7308 or email

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This page contains a single entry by Louise F. Deis published on February 8, 2007 9:35 AM.

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