Breaking boundaries in creativity with Sir Henry Kroto

Nobel Prize Winner Harold Kroto advocated for creativity in education. He tried to prove his belief by showcasing a wide diversity of creative works.  Kroto believed that having a broader and wider perspective in liberal arts and science could help stimulate student’s creativity in any field of education.

The lecture was held at the Ewers Center, the number of audiences were at least over 200 people. The presentation was done in a PowerPoint style with displays of artwork and media. Professor Scott Olsen was the host of Kroto’s lecture.

Olsen brought Kroto to CF because he felt he would be an inspiration for students.

“When I was in the Netherlands, I observed him and his wife, Margaret, sitting at the table, working with young people, including little children, assisting them to grow and to expand their horizons,” Olsen said. “That is what partially drew me to him. It wasn’t because he was a Nobel Prize winner, but because he was a model for the field of education.”

Kroto first introduced himself by showing how he was taught to appreciate various and different aspects of education, namely acting, gymnastics and science. Kroto explained his worldliness by telling stories of his travels and that creativity does not come from reinventing but rather a “synthesis,” as in a combination of other fields that help stimulate creativity.

To further illustrate his point, Kroto used various works of media, such as art, music, sculptures, photographs, books and sciences. For such examples, he mentioned how powerful music can evoke certain emotions in films, such as the opening sequence of Space Odyssey 2001 or the helicopter raid in Apocalypse Now. He also showed paintings such as Paul’s “Streichholz,” a woman with a match fire in front of her eye, and Pablo Picasso’s painting, “Guernica,” which showed the sorrow and horrors of war.

Kroto then showed his own contributions, namely his scientific discovery of the Buckminsterfullerene, also coined buckyball for short. The buckyball is a three dimensional molecular shape consisting of 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons of carbon 60. Not only did the buckyball led him to winning the Nobel Prize, but he has applied the buckyball in creating various logo designs for companies and organizations.

Kroto’s sons have also used their talents to synthesize interesting forms of media. One of his sons made a children’s storybook about decreasing sizes and mass, while his elder son actually made a short film with famous British actor, Ian McKellen.

Near the end of the presentation, Kroto used a Peanuts comic strip where the character Sally asked, “How could anyone get a C from a coat hanger sculpture?” Kroto then transitions the comic strip to a photo display of an impressive gorilla sculpture made exactly of coat hangers.

The remarkable gorilla sculpture then led to Kroto’s words of wisdom.

“The simple recipe for success is when you do an assignment, make sure you give it your best shot,” Kroto said. “Because if you’re only satisfied with second rate, then look for something else to do where you not only give it your best shot but also it would satisfy you, not the teacher, but you personally.”

Kroto then finished off his presentation with photos of a very special instance where a three-year old girl made her own buckyball with no assistance at all.

“Perhaps the most fantastic picture that Margaret had ever took,” Kroto said. “That is the true exhilaration, the personal joy of creating something beautiful.”

Questions and answers were then held at the event, some in which involved food for thought, such as the ever-rising problem of the world’s increasing population or whether creativity comes from nature or nurture. Kroto was patient, courteous and honest with his answers, even admitting that he does not know the answer himself sometimes.

A lot of other professors responded favorably to Kroto’s lecture.

“I think he’s very knowledgeable,” observer Bill Bauer said. “His background is science and chemistry and to get into the liberal arts is kind of different, so he has a lot of education and experience.”

Overall, Kroto’s lecture on expanding the boundaries of creativity for liberal arts was a success.

“I find Dr. Kroto’s perspective of creativity needing to be grown within our students is really poignant and inspiring,” Karla Wilkinson said. “I think his ideas that our curriculums should be explored and engaging are very admirable.”

By: Leslie Lo