The Power List 2020 – North America
Richard Smalley Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry, Physics, Applied Physics, Biophysics, Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Biology, and Member of The Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences, The Michigan Biointerfaces Institute, The Rogel Cancer Center, University of Michigan Hospital, USA
Dinner party guest: Einstein. In a single year (1905) he published three seminal papers. The first was on the photoelectric effect, for which he got the Nobel Prize in Physics. The second on diffusion theory almost won him the Nobel prize in Chemistry, and the third, describing relativity theory (including E=MC2), was hardly noticed at the time. He also coined the phrase: “Genius has its limitations but stupidity is not so incapacitated.”
Time travel destination: The moment after the apple fell on Newton’s head. Because of a pandemic then, Newton avoided Cambridge and London, and escaped to a far-away (in terms of the time) farm. And that’s why he was under an apple tree before making a discovery that would define modern science.
Advice to younger self: To be a successful scientist and teacher you have to understand human nature and jealousies. In my first year as an instructor, I introduced the use of computers to my senior students. The Dean, also a chemist, intervened and forbade me from doing the same the next semester, calling the use of computers “anti-educational.” One of these students eventually won the Nobel Prize for “Computational Chemistry.”
Nominator comment: I’m nominating Raoul because of his development of novel sensing/imaging technologies that use photoacoustics and photoacoustic lifetime-based measurements.