After laying the scientific groundwork for the field, Dr. Pope wrote, together with Charles E. Swenberg, the definitive text “Electronic Processes in Organic Crystals and Polymers”. First published in 1982, the 1,300+ page book remains the leading reference in the field of organic semiconductors.
Dr. Pope, who focused on basic research, held few patents and did not seek to profit from his discoveries.
In 2006, the Royal Society awarded Dr Pope the Davy Medal, awarded annually to a scientist whose research has contributed to extraordinary advances in any field of chemistry. Several people who have relied on Dr. Pope’s work have won Nobel Prizes. In 2000, the Chemistry Prize was awarded jointly to Alan J. Heeger, Alan G. MacDiarmid and Hideki Shirakawa for inventing a technique to make plastic conduct electricity.
“In a sense, Martin Pope’s work was a prelude to all of this,” said Sir John Meurig Thomas, emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Cambridge, in a 2011 interview. (He died in 2020.)
Martin Pope was born Isidore Poppick on August 22, 1918 in an apartment building on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. His parents, Phillip and Anna, were both Jewish immigrants who came to New York from Poland as teenagers. His father worked as a laborer in a fur store, stretching animal skins.
“We were completely dependent on whether times were good enough for people to buy fur coats,” Dr Pope said in the 2011 interview.
In 1938, then an undergraduate at City College of New York studying physical chemistry, 20-year-old Isidore Poppick published a research paper in the prestigious Journal of the American Chemical Society.