Yesterday Sir Fraser Stoddart won a one third share of the 2016 Chemistry Nobel Prize, for developing molecular machines, i.e., molecules that act like machines in the sense that they can move, exert forces etc. Stoddart was an academic in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Sheffield, when I started as an undergraduate. He never taught me as I didn’t take his course, but he did teach friends of mine. They were not impressed by the future Nobel Laureate. In 1990, which would have been the second year of my degree, Stoddart moved to the University of Birmingham. He still had a course to teach at Sheffield at the time but, as I understand it, told the Sheffield Department that he could not make it to Sheffield during the week. So, his lecture was moved to 9 am on Saturday mornings. My fellow students were about as impressed by this as you would expect them to be. Twenty six years later I still have dim memories of being in a pub on Friday evening listening to my fellow students vent about this year’s Novel Laureate.
As he certainly made an impression on the students, some of them must have seen yesterday’s announcement and thought “That was the git that got me out of bed early in Saturdays!”. Like, I guess, a lot of Laureates, Stoddart is a driven person, and not everyone appreciates their interactions with driven people. But some people do, a friend worked for Stoddart over one summer, and found it inspiring.