In Memoriam: Kozo Tanabe (1926-2018)

Professor Kozo Tanabe passed away on April 24, 2018 at the age of 91.

Kozo Tanabe was born on May 7, 1926 in Takeda, Oita prefecture, Japan. He studied Chemistry at Hokkaido University and graduated in 1951. He joined the Research Institute of Catalysis, Hokkaido University and received a PhD in 1956. He remained on the faculty of the Research Institute of Catalysis and was promoted to Professor in 1960. In 1965, he moved to the Department of Chemistry at Hokkaido University, where he retired to become Professor Emeritus in 1990.

Professor Tanabe carried out early seminal work in acid-base catalysis by solids and discovered the essential role of acid-base pairs in conferring unique reactivity and selectivity by stabilizing intermediates through concerted interactions. He was a prolific and highly-cited author with more than 300 research publication and 10 books. Among these, the book entitled “Solid Acids and Bases” set the fundamental underpinnings for the interpretation of the reactivity of oxides and mixed oxides in catalytic reactions and for the benefits of an appropriate balance in strength between the acid and base active centers.

His achievements were recognized with many distinctions, among them several awards from the Chemical Society and the Catalysis Society of Japan and the Japan Institute of Petroleum. He was awarded the Medal with Purple Ribbon and the Order of the Sacred Treasure. Professor Tanabe served as President of the Catalysis Society of Japan and as Vice president of the Chemical Society of Japan. His profound influence on the field led to the creation of the “Kozo Tanabe Prize for Acid-Base Catalysis” in his honor; this prize is stewarded by the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Acid-Base Catalysis Symposium.

Professor Tanabe was a teacher and mentor for many generations of catalysis scientists at Hokkaido University and in the catalysis community at-large. He is also remembered as a humble and gentle scholar whose vast wisdom and knowledge he was always so willing to share.
(Prepared by Hideshi Hattori, Johannes Lercher, and Enrique Iglesia)