Alan J. Heeger

  • American physicist
  • Born January 22, 1936

Alan Jay Heeger (born January 22, 1936) is an American physicist, academic and Nobel Prize laureate in chemistry.

My undergraduate years at the University of Nebraska were a special time in my life: the combination of partying and intellectual awakening that is what the undergraduate years are supposed to be. I went to the university with the goal of becoming an engineer; I had no concept that one could pursue science as a career.

The transitions from metallic to critical behavior and from critical to insulating behavior have been induced with a magnetic field, and from insulating to critical and then to metallic behavior with increasing external pressure.

The science of semiconducting and metallic polymers is inherently interdisciplinary; it falls at the intersection of chemistry and physics.

My high school years were fun and frustrating, typical of the teen years. The most important accomplishment was meeting my wife, Ruth.

I have a strong memory of the day I was told that my father had a weak heart and that he had to go to the hospital. He died when I was nine years old on the same day that Franklin Roosevelt died; it was his 45th birthday.

In 1990, Paul Smith and I decided that conducting polymers as materials had developed to a level of maturity that commercial products were possible. With this as a goal, we founded UNLAX Corporation.

Polymeric materials in the form of wood, bone, skin and fibers have been used by man since prehistoric time. Although organic chemistry as a science dates back to the eighteenth century, polymer science on a molecular basis is a development of the twentieth century.

The scaling theory of localization demonstrated that the disorder-induced M-I transition was a true phase transition with a well defined critical point.

Polymer synthesis in the 1950s was dominated by Karl Ziegler and Giulio Natta, whose discoveries of polymerization catalysts were of great importance for the development of the modem 'plastics' industry.

In spite of the evidence for the disorder-induced M-I transition as inferred from the transport and optical measurements, the metallic state of conjugated polymers has been a subject of controversy.

I started out as a physicist; however, I am what I have become. I have evolved, with the help of many colleagues in the international scientific community, into an interdisciplinary scientist.