Dr. Thrower received his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Cambridge University, U.K. where he studied physics. He spent the first nine years of his career working at the U.K. Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell before joining the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Penn State in 1969. At Harwell he studied the effects of neutron radiation damage to graphite, mostly using transmission electron microscopy. He continued his research on carbon materials at Penn State and was later appointed as Director of Graduate Studies for the department, a position he held for 14 years. In 1972 he was appointed an Associate Editor of CARBON, an international scientific research journal, and the following year was appointed Editor-in-Chief, a position that he still holds. He also served as Editor of the monograph series “Chemistry and Physics of Carbon” from 1973 to 1998, when he retired from Penn State. Thrower has published nearly 100 papers on carbon and graphite materials, focusing on radiation damage, oxidation and mechanical properties.
In 1989 Dr. Thrower started to teach a General Education course entitled “Materials in Today’s World”. The course was eventually taught to around 1000 students each semester and a book with the same title was written for the course. A third edition of the book was published early in 2009 with Dr. T.O. Mason (Northwestern Univ.) as co-author. The course is now taught throughout the world and brings the science and importance of materials to non-science majors.
The diversity of carbon materials currently available could not have been envisaged 40 years ago. As Editor-in-Chief of the major journal dealing with carbon materials, Thrower has faced developments that were simply not imagined when he started his Editorship. With recent discoveries in fullerenes, carbon nanotubes, graphene and graphane, there appears to be no limit to the diversity of carbon materials. Although these materials undoubtedly existed before they were recognised, they have now found specific applications in adsorption processes, strong composites, energy storage and biomaterials. They have exciting prospects for electronic devices and the realisation of these applications is one of the major current research challenges faced by materials scientists.