Greater Houston Section

In Memoriam - Dr. Robert F. Curl Jr.

06 Jul 2022 4:16 PM | ACS GHS (Administrator)

The ACS-GHS is sad to hear of the passing of Dr. Robert F. Curl Jr. on July 3rd, 2022. In addition to being a long-term faculty member at Rice University and a Nobel Laureate, Dr. Curl was also our 2021 Joe W. Hightower Award winner and we were very lucky to enjoy his company as the guest of honor at our Annual Awards Banquet last October. GHS Executive Committee member Tom Malloy shared the following comments on Dr. Curl:

Robert Curl

To anyone who knew him, he was just Bob. I met Bob Curl over 50 years ago when I was a graduate student at A&M and would have done a post-doc with him if I didn’t have an offer from MIT. I convinced an MIT student to join Bob’s group, probably out of guilt for not doing so myself.  

Bob was always incredibly generous with his time. Whenever I came back to Houston to visit family, I would stop by Rice to see him, unannounced. If he was in, he would stop, introduce me to the members of his group, give me a tour of his lab and then just sit and talk science. Throughout the years, we met and talked many times. When I saw the Nova program on PBS about buckyballs in the early 90’s, I told my wife that they would get the Nobel prize for that work. It wasn’t long before that came true.  

I returned to Houston and worked for Shell for a number of years and then was on the faculty at my undergraduate alma mater, the University of St. Thomas. Bob accepted an invitation to give a seminar at UST and spent the whole day with our students. He kind of sheepishly had asked me if he could talk about something other than buckyballs but realized that buckyballs were what the audience wanted the hear. My family was thrilled when he went to dinner with us that night. I had many interactions with Bob at ACS events throughout the years. He was always supportive of ACS. 

Bob was a giant in the scientific world, but more than that, just an incredibly nice, generous, gentle man. He is one of the few, outside of family members, whose passing has brought tears to my eyes. I will miss him. 

-Thomas B. Malloy, Jr., Professor Emeritus, Department of Chemistry and PhysicsUniversity of St. Thomas

Photo: Mamie Moy, Robert Curl, Jonel Curl, and Anne Hightower at the ACS-GHS Annual Awards Banquet, October 2021

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