Alan MacDiarmid

Alan MacDiarmid

Alan MacDiarmid in Beijing, China, 2005
Born Alan Graham MacDiarmid
14 April 1927
Masterton, New Zealand
Died 7 February 2007 (aged 79)
Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Nationality New Zealand, United States
Alma mater
Thesis The chemistry of some new derivatives of the silyl radical (1955)
Notable awards

Alan Graham MacDiarmid, ONZ FRS[1] (14 April 1927 – 7 February 2007) was a New Zealand-born American chemist, and one of three recipients of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2000.[2][3][4]

Early life and education

MacDiarmid was born in Masterton, New Zealand as one of five children – three brothers and two sisters. His family was relatively poor, and the Great Depression made life difficult in Masterton, due to which his family shifted to Lower Hutt, a few miles from Wellington, New Zealand. 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.

MacDiarmid was educated at Hutt Valley High School and Victoria University of Wellington.[5]

In 1943, MacDiarmid passed the University of New Zealand's University Entrance Exam and its Medical Preliminary Exam.[6] He then took up a part-time job as a "lab boy" or janitor in Victoria University of Wellington, during his studies for a BSc degree, which he completed in 1947.[6] He was then appointed demonstrator in the undergraduate laboratories.[6] After completing an MSc in chemistry from the same university, he later worked as an assistant in its chemistry department.[5] It was here that he had his first publication in 1949, in the scientific journal Nature.[6] He graduated in 1951 with first class honours, and won a Fulbright Fellowship to the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He majored in inorganic chemistry, receiving his M.S. degree in 1952 and his PhD in 1953. He then won a Shell Graduate Scholarship, which enabled him to go to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he completed a second PhD in 1955.[5][7]

Career and research

MacDiarmid worked in the School of Chemistry at the University of St Andrews in Scotland for a year as a member of the junior faculty. He then took a faculty position in chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, USA, where he became a full professor in 1964. MacDiarmid spent the greater part of his career on the chemistry faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where he worked for 45 years.[5] The first twenty years of his research there focused on silicon chemistry. He was appointed Blanchard Professor of Chemistry in 1988.[8]

In 2002 MacDiarmid also joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Dallas.[9]

Conductive polymers

His best-known research was the discovery and development of conductive polymers—plastic materials that conduct electricity. He collaborated with the Japanese chemist Hideki Shirakawa and the American physicist Alan Heeger in this research and published the first results in 1977.[10] The three of them shared the 2000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this work.[11][12][13][14]

The Nobel Prize was awarded for the discovery that plastics can, after certain modifications, be made electrically conductive. The work progressed to yield important practical applications. Conductive plastics can be used for anti-static substances for photographic film and 'smart' windows that can exclude sunlight. Semi-conductive polymers have been applied in light-emitting diodes, solar cells and displays in mobile telephones. Future developments in molecular electronics are predicted to dramatically increase the speed while reducing the size of computers.

MacDiarmid also travelled around the world for speaking engagements that impressed upon listeners the value of globalising the effort of innovation in the 21st century. In one of his last courses, in 2001, MacDiarmid elected to lead a small seminar of incoming freshmen about his research activities. Overall, his name is on over 600 published papers and 20 patents.[9] MacDiarmid was also active as a naturist and nudist, and considered himself a sun-worshipper and keen waterskier.[15][16][17]

Selected publications

  • Chiang, C.K.; Druy, M.A.; Gau, S.C.; Heeger, A.J.; Louis, E.J.; MacDiarmid, A.G.; Park, Y.W.; Shirakawa, H., "Synthesis of Highly Conducting Films of Derivatives of Polyacetylene, (CH)x," J. Am. Chem. Soc., 100, 1013 (1978).
  • Heeger, A. J.; MacDiarmid, A. G., Polyacetylene, (CH){sub x}, as an Emerging Material for Solar Cell Applications. Final Technical Report, March 19, 1979 - March 18, 1980, University of Pennsylvania (June 1980).
  • MacDiarmid, A. G., Energy Systems Based on Polyacetylene: Rechargeable Batteries and Schottky Barrier Solar Cells. Final Report, March 1, 1981-February 29, 1984, University of Pennsylvania (February 1984).
  • The Workshop on Conductive Polymers: Final Report, U.S. Department of Energy Division of Materials Sciences, Brookhaven National Laboratory (October 1985).
  • Chiang, J.-C., and MacDiarmid, A.G., "Polyaniline': Protonic Acid Doping of the Emeraldine Form to the Metallic Regime," Synth. Met., 13, 193 (1986).
  • MacDiarmid, A.G.; Chiang, J.-C.; Richter, A.F.; Epstein, A.J., "Polyaniline: A New Concept in Conducting Polymers," Synth. Met., 18, 285 (1987).
  • MacDiarmid, A.G., Yang, L.S., Huang, W.-S., and Humphrey, B.D., "Polyaniline: Electrochemistry and Application to Rechargeable Batteries". Synth. Met., 18, 393 (1987).
  • Kaner, R.B.; MacDiarmid, A.G., "Plastics That Conduct Electricity," Scientific American, 106 (February 1988).
  • MacDiarmid, A.G.; Epstein, A.J., " 'Synthetic Metals': A Novel Role for Organic Polymers," Macromol. Chem., 51, 11 (1991).
  • MacDiarmid, A.G.; Epstein, A.J., "Science and Technology of Conducting Polymers," in Frontiers of Polymer Research, P.N. Prasad and J.K. Nigam, Eds., Plenum Press, New York, 1991, p. 259.
  • Wang, Z.H.; Li, C.; Scherr, E.M.; MacDiarmid, A.G.; Epstein, A.J., "Three Dimensionality of 'Metallic' States in Conducting Polymers: Polyaniline," Phys. Rev. Lett., 66, 1745 (1991).
  • MacDiarmid, A.J.; Epstein, A.J., "The Concept of Secondary Doping as Applied to Polyaniline," Synth. Met., 65, 103 (1994).
  • MacDiarmid, A.G., Zhou, Y., Feng, J., Furst, G.T., and Shedlow, A.M., "Isomers and Isomerization Processes in Poly-Anilines," Proc. ANTEC '99, Soc. Plastics Engr., 2, 1563 (1999).
  • MacDiarmid, A.G., Norris, I.D., Jones, J.W.E., El-Sherif, M.A., Yuan, J., Han, B. and Ko, F.K., "Polyaniline Based Chemical Transducers with Sub-micron Dimensions," Polymeric Mat. Sci. & Eng., 83, 544 (2000).
  • Norris, I.D., Shaker, M.M., Ko, F.K., and MacDiarmid, A.G., "Electrostatic Fabrication of Ultrafine Conducting Fibers: Polyaniline/Polyethylene Oxide Blends," Synth. Met., 114, 2 (2000).
  • MacDiarmid, A.G., Jones, J.W.E., Norris, I.D., Gao, J., Johnson, J.A.T., Pinto, N.J., Hone, J., Han, B., Ko, F.K., Okuzaki, H., and Llaguno, M., "Electrostatically-Generated Nanofibers of Electronic Polymers," Synth. Met., 119, 27–30 (2001).
  • Shimano, J.Y., and MacDiarmid, A.G., "Phase Segregation in Polyaniline: A Dynamic Block Copolymer," Synth. Met., 119, 365–366 (2001).
  • Wang, P.C., and MacDiarmid, A.G., "Dependency of Properties of In Situ Deposited Polypyrrole Films on Dopant Anion and Substrate Surface," Synth. Met., 119, 267–268 (2001).
  • Hohnholz, D., and MacDiarmid, A.G., "Line Patterning of Conducting Polymers: New Horizons for Inexpensive, Disposable Electronic Devices," Synth. Met., 121, 1327–1328 (2001).
  • Premvardhan, L., Peteanu, L.A., Wang, P.-C., and MacDiarmid, A.G., "Electronic Properties of the Conducting Form of Polyaniline from Electroabsorption Measurements," Synth. Met., 116, 157–161 (2001).
  • MacDiarmid, A.G. “Twenty-five Years of Conducting Polymers”. Chem. Comm., 1–4 (2003).
  • Tanner, D.B.; Doll, G.L.; Rao, A.M.; Eklund, P.C.; Arbuckle, G.A.; MacDiarmid, A.G. “Optical properties of potassium-doped polyacetylene”. Synth. Met., 141, 75–79 (2004).
  • Hohnholz, D.; Okuzaki,H.; MacDiarmid, A.G. “Plastic electronic devices through line patterning of conducting polymers”. Adv. Funct. Mater., 15, 51–56 (2005).
  • Venancio, E.C; Wang, P-C.; MacDiarmid, A.G. “The Azanes: A Class of Material Incorporating Nano/Micro Self-Assembled Hollow Spheres Obtained By Aqueous Oxidative Polymerization of Aniline”. Synth. Met., 156, 357 (2006).
  • MacDiarmid, A.G.; Venancio, E.C. “Agrienergy (Agriculture/Energy): What Does the Future Hold?”. Experimental Biology and Medicine., 231, 1212 (2006).

Awards and honours

MacDiarmid won numerous awards and honours including:

Personal life

Towards the end of his life, MacDiarmid was ill with myelodysplastic syndrome. In early February 2007 he was planning to travel back to New Zealand, when he fell down the stairs in his home in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia,[22] and died on 7 February 2007.[23] He is buried at Arlington Cemetery in Drexel Hill.

MacDiarmid's first wife, Marian Mathieu, who he had married in 1954,[6] died in 1990. He is survived by four children: Heather McConnell, Dawn Hazelett, Duncan MacDiarmid and Gail Williams, from their marriage and nine grandchildren: Dr. Sean McConnell, Dr. Ryan McConnell, Rebecca McConnell, Dr. Clayton Hazelett, Wesley Hazelett, Langston MacDiarmid, Aubree Williams, Austin Williams and George Williams. MacDiarmid was also survived by his second wife, Gayl Gentile, whom he married in 2005; she died in 2014.[9]


  1. 1 2 3 "Fellowship of the Royal Society 1660-2015". Royal Society. Archived from the original on 15 July 2015.
  2. Holmes, Andrew (2007). "Obituary: Alan Graham MacDiarmid (1927–2007) Pioneer of conducting polymers, and proud Antipodean". Nature. 446 (7134): 390. doi:10.1038/446390a. PMID 17377574.
  3. "Alan G. MacDiarmid". Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering. 15: 296. 2011.
  4. "Interview with Alan G. MacDiarmid". Archived from the original on 12 May 2012.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Alan G. MacDiarmid – Autobiography". Archived from the original on 10 July 2007. Retrieved 3 July 2007.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Alan MacDiarmid – PLASTIC FANTASTIC". Archived from the original on 1 July 2007. Retrieved 3 July 2007.
  7. MacDiarmid, Alan Graham (1955). The chemistry of some new derivatives of the silyl radical (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge.
  8. "Chairs for Five SAS Faculty". Almanac (University of Pennsylvania newsletter), 35(1), 12 July 1988.
  9. 1 2 3 Chang, Kenneth (8 February 2007). "Alan MacDiarmid, 79, Who Won Nobel for Work With Plastic, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 July 2007.
  10. Shirakawa, Hideki; Louis, Edwin J.; MacDiarmid, Alan G.; Chiang, Chwan K.; Heeger, Alan J. (1977). "Synthesis of electrically conducting organic polymers: Halogen derivatives of polyacetylene, (CH) x". Journal of the Chemical Society, Chemical Communications (16): 578. doi:10.1039/C39770000578.
  11. "The Long and Winding Road to the Nobel Prize for Alan MacDiarmid". Almanac (University of Pennsylvania newsletter), 47(8), 17 October 2000.
  12. Sandy Smith, "Alan MacDiarmid". The Penn Current, 26 October 2000.
  13. Joan P. Capuzzi Giresi, "The Boy Chemist at 75." Pennsylvania Gazette, March 2002.
  14. "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2000: Alan Heeger, Alan G. MacDiarmid, Hideki Shirakawa".
  15. Article with Naturist Musings
  16. Kent Atkinson of NZPA (9 February 2007). "The Nobel-prize winning naturist – Alan MacDiarmid remembered". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
  17. My Nude Life Archived 30 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  19. "The Queen's Birthday and Golden Jubilee Honours 2002". The New Zealand Gazette (57): 1553. 30 May 2002.
  20. "The Queen's Birthday and Golden Jubilee Honours 2002" (PDF). The New Zealand Gazette. New Zealand Gazette Office, Department of Internal Affairs. 5 June 2002. p. 1553. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
  21. Friendship Award awards friends, People's Daily Online, 30 September 2004
  22. "Nobel-Winner MacDiarmid Dies". Pennsylvania Gazette, March 2007.
  23. "NZ Nobel Prize winner dies". NZPA. 8 February 2007. Retrieved 8 February 2007.

External links

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