Story: MacDiarmid, Alan Graham

Page 4: Nobel Prize and other awards

MacDiarmid, Alan Graham


Chemist, scientist

This biography, written by Paul Callaghan, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2011.


Before being awarded the Nobel Prize, MacDiarmid was made Blanchard Professor at the University of Pennsylvania (1988). He received the John Scott Award of the City of Philadelphia (1989) and the American Chemical Society Award in the Chemistry of Materials (1999). After the Nobel he received the ACS Nichols Medal Award in Materials Chemistry (2002), and was made a member of the US National Academy of Sciences (2002) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of London (2002). In 2002 he joined the University of Texas at Dallas as James Von Ehr Distinguished Professor, while maintaining his chair at the University of Pennsylvania. Institutes in New Zealand, China, Brazil, India and the United States are named after him.

Later work

Later work by MacDiarmid opened up the development of other conducting polymers such as the polyanilines. In this he was greatly assisted, following Heeger’s shift to the University of California, by a fruitful collaboration with University of Ohio physicist Arthur Epstein. MacDiarmid was enormously productive, publishing over 600 articles and gaining 25 patents during his 60 years as a scientist.

Relations with others

MacDiarmid was unfailingly positive and encouraging to others – especially younger scientists. He was known for his quotations and mantras, such as ‘Theories come and theories go, but the facts go on forever’, ‘Vision without funding is an hallucination’ and ‘I am a very lucky man and the harder I work the luckier I seem to be’. He and his wife regularly hosted foreign visitors at home, and held annual gatherings for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. MacDiarmid worked long hours. In his spare time he enjoyed family camping at a vacation cottage on Lake Wallenpaupack in the Pocono Mountains, in Pennsylvania, where he loved to waterski.

How to cite this page:

Paul Callaghan. 'MacDiarmid, Alan Graham - Nobel Prize and other awards', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 2011. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 15 August 2020)