TRIBUTES have been paid to Bolton’s Nobel prize-winning scientist who has died at the age of 76.

Sir Harry Kroto, a Bolton School old boy, was awarded the 1996 chemistry Nobel prize, along with Robert Curl and Richard Smalley, for the discovery of Buckminsterfullerene molecule — known as bucky-balls — and was knighted the same year.

The discovery led to o the development of new materials and revolutionised civil engineering.

Mr Kroto was born in Cambridgeshire to parents who left Germany as refugees during the Second World War.

The family moved to Bolton, living in Arkwright Street.

Sir Harry won a scholarship to Bolton School. Actor, Sir Ian McKellen, was one one of his classmates and the two starred in school productions together.

Sir Harry regularly returned to his former school to inspire the next generation.

On the Nobel Prize website, Sir Harry wrote: “My parents had lost almost everything and we lived in a very poor part of Bolton.

“However, they did everything they could to get me the best education they could. As far as they were concerned this meant getting me into Bolton School, a school with exceptional facilities and teachers.”

Philip Britton, head of Bolton School boys’ division said: “Harry was a wonderful and warm person, a great intellect and had a strong focus on inspiring young people.

“My memories of him will be of the passion with which he spoke of how his own education at Bolton School has shaped his life and how committed he was that this chance be available for others. He was a genuine case of real social mobility.

“It is also hard to think we will not see him in the sports hall again, sitting among hundreds of primary school children, passing on his passion for Chemistry. I think it said a lot about him that he used his scientific fame to promote education, particularly using the internet to help educate those countries where formal education is hard to get.

“That passion for the subject, intellect, sense of social responsibility and enthusiasm sum up a great character and a great life.”

He concluded: “It may be some time before Bolton boasts another Nobel Prize winner – he has been an exceptional local figure.”

Dr Michael Yates, Head of Chemistry at the boys’ division, added: "Sir Harry was an inspirational communicator. 

"He was selfless in his passion to enthuse the younger generation.

"He set a wonderful example to all people about having a broad range of interests – besides Science he was interested in graphic design and at School he acted, he played tennis and won Art prizes. 

"I will always be grateful for the time he gave to us in Bolton. 

"In 2008 we set up a science partnership funded by the Ogden Trust and Sir Harry launched it from Florida via the internet.

"He visited Bolton School in 2009 and 2010 when he gave presentations to over 500 local primary school pupils who had fun making his “bucky balls” and he also lectured secondary schools.

"He came again in 2014 and did the same.

"His energy was boundless."

On Twitter, scientist and TV presenter, Brian Cox, said: "RIP Harry Kroto - brilliant scientist and a strong, passionate advocate for science as a vital part of our culture."

Sir Harry, who moved to America to work at Florida State University, later received an honorary doctorate from the University of Bolton.

He is survived by his wife Margaret and two sons, Stephen and David.