László Guczi was born on 23th March 1932 in Szeged, Hungary. As a youngster he was a talented violin player and planned to become a musician. Luckily for the catalysis community he accepted the arguments of his mother and enrolled at the University of Szeged. He graduated with an MSc degree in chemistry in 1959 and started his career in the Isotope Laboratory of the Research Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry, Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He was involved in the study of the interaction of alkyl iodides with carbon and red phosphorous using the differential isotope method.
In 1962 Professor Tétényi invited him to work at the Institute of Isotopes, Budapest. This institute was his “headquarter” over 50 years. The catalysis research at the institute was focused on the multiplet theory of Balandin applying isotopes as tracers. In hydrogenolysis of ethane on Ni, Pt and Pd metallic powders the bonding of reactants to the surface was characterized by C13 and C14 labeling as well as
H‑D and H‑T exchange. In this period he spent one year in 1964/65 as post doctoral fellow at the University of Sheffield with Professor J.V. Tyrrell. He received the degree of “Candidate of Science” and “Doctor of Science” from the Hungarian Academy of Science in 1968 and 1976, respectively.
In 1976 he established the Research Group on Catalysis. He developed the “Double Labeling Method” and applied it in the study of the mechanism of the selective hydrogenation of acetylene and butadiene. Together with Professor Tétényi and Professor Paál he received the Hungarian State Prize in 1983 for the development of the principle of the “catalytic system”. The essence of this principle is that the catalyst and the substrates together form the “active sites” acting not as static formations but change continuously during the life of the catalyst. He initiated study of the structure-activity relationship applying highly dispersed supported metal catalysts. At the beginning, Fe, Ru and FeRu bimetallic carbonyl clusters as catalyst precursors were studied in the Fisher-Tropsch reaction. He introduced Mössbauer spectroscopy for in situ characterization of the catalysts. Based on this research he was invited as plenary speaker to the 9th ICC in 1988 to give a talk about cluster catalysis. Later on he extended the research to interfacial chemistry in model catalysts to define the surface species at molecular level and their influence on the activity and selectivity, electron properties of nanoparticles, genesis of bimetallic particles geometrically confined in zeolite cage, role of bimetallic catalysts in deNOx, in CO hydrogenation/oxidation and methane activation to form hydrocarbons. In 1993, he was awarded by Republic’s Order Officer Cross. In the last two decades he turned to the catalysis by gold. He was especially devoted to study of the interaction of gold with promoting oxides applying nanodispersed systems prepared by colloidal methods and model systems prepared by physical methods. For all this research he was eager to equip his laboratory with sophisticated and up-to-date techniques such as XPS, FT-IR, STM and SFG (Sum Frequency Generation). He undoubtedly played a pioneering role in establishing these methodologies in the Hungarian scientific culture.
He was an extraordinary and a highly talented person, who was excellent in building contacts and organizing scientific co-operations worldwide. László was like an ambassador for the Hungarian catalysis community. He received recognition all over the world, which was evidenced by the special issues published in Applied Catalysis A and Topics in Catalysis on the occasions of his 70th and 80th birthday, respectively.
He published over 400 research papers, 12 books and chapters, presented about 430 lectures (out of these 34 plenary or invited ones). He supervised 22 PhD students, some of them from abroad. All of László’s students got post doctoral position at highly respected universities by his help. He was a professor at the University of Szeged and the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. He was a visiting professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA; The Rijks University, Leiden; University of Pittsburgh, USA; Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, USA; P&M Curie University, France; Schuit Institute of Catalysis, The Netherlands. He served as regional editor for Applied Catalysis in 1980–2006. He was also on the advisory board of Catalysis Today and Reaction Kinetics and Catalysis Letters. He played major role in organizing the 10th ICC in Budapest in 1992 and the 8th International Symposium on Relation between Homogeneous and Heterogeneous Catalysis at Lake Balaton in 1995.
In private life László was a loving husband, father and grandfather. He was an excellent cook who enjoyed entertaining his friends and co-workers in his house at Érd, in the suburb of Budapest. During his life, classical music remained his passion.
We all admired his devotion to the science, his unlimited energy, and enjoyed his sense of humor and charm. We will greatly miss him.
Obituary prepared by Zoltán Schay.