Professor Oleg Valentinovich Krylov, one of the major figures in the field of catalysis for several decades, passed away in Moscow on the July 28, 2008, at the age of 83.
Oleg Krylov was born on September 13, 1924 into a family of teachers in the city of Ivanovo. His mother was a high school biology teacher and his father taught chemistry at the Agricultural Institute. It was, in fact, within his family that the main qualities of his personality were laid down, which became so brightly evident in the future: a love for the natural sciences and art, and a considerate attitude toward people.
Upon completion of high school, Oleg Krylov entered the Ivanovo Chemical Institute, upon completion of which he became a graduate student in the laboratory of Prof. S. E. Roginskii in the Colloidal-Electrochemical Institute (subsequently – the Institute of Physical Chemistry) of the USSR Academy of Sciences. This laboratory was then one of the leaders in the development of new concepts in the science of catalysis – the theory of non-uniform surfaces, the electronic theory of adsorption, and the methodology for selecting catalysts for reactions of various types. The theme of his candidate’s thesis, which he defended in 1951 under the direction of Prof. S. E. Roginskii, was the activation of platinum by oxygen for reactions of oxidation and hydrogenation. In 1953 at the suggestion of S. E. Roginskii (whom Oleg Valentinovich valued very highly and considered his teacher) he took up a new theme – the investigation of the rules for selecting oxide catalysts. In significant measure this choice defined his scientific interests for many years.
In 1961, at the suggestion of its director, Nobel laureate and academician N. N. Semenov, the laboratory of S. E. Roginskii moved to the Institute of Chemical Physics (ICP). From this time on, all of O. V. Krylov’s scientific endeavors were connected with the ICP. His main area of interest during this period was defining the relationships between the electronic configurations and catalytic properties of transition metal compounds, particularly for complex reaction systems. He elucidated important correlations and relationships that were generalized in his doctoral dissertation, which he defended in 1964. This work served as the basis for the monograph entitled Catalysis by Non-Metals (published in English by Academic Press in 1970), which to this day is one of the classic texts on heterogeneous catalysis.
Over many decades Prof. Krylov directed a laboratory and a division, and served as Deputy Director for Science of the ICP. He initiated in situ investigations of catalytic processes using IR, UV, and EPR spectroscopy, x‑ray phase analysis, calorimetry; and launched investigations to study the role of non-equilibrium and excited states and particles in adsorption and catalysis. He (in collaboration with L. Ya Margolis and coworkers) formulated ideas about the role of multi-phase catalysts in the processes of partial oxidation, which led to a new understanding of the meaning of “active centers, as well as process for their synthesis. In the early 1980s Prof. Krylov was one of the initiators of broad-based investigations in the area of natural gas conversion by chemical means.
O. V. Krylov played and invaluable role in the development of international scientific connections. Over many years, he was responsible for this activity within the framework of the Scientific Council on Catalysis. In particular, he was one of the initiators and leaders (together with academician G. K. Boreskov) of the collaboration on catalysis between the USSR and the USA in the 1970s. He was the representative of the USSR, and then Russia, in many international scientific organizations, including journal editorial boards, the Council of the International Congress of Catalysis (now known as IACS), the Council of the World Congress on Oxidation Catalysis, of which he was one of the initiators. One can confidently say that Prof. Krylov was one of the people who can be thanked for establishing within the world community an atmosphere, in which the fundamental attitudes are personal kindness, decency, and scientific honesty.
One of Prof. Krylov’s main activities during the last 15 years was to maintain the Moscow seminars on catalysis, a task that he led for nearly 40 years. The significance of this seminar for catalyst community in Russia cannot be overestimated, especially when many previously established connections and forms of organization for scientific activities were disappearing. This seminar examined not only contemporary fundamental and applied questions of catalysis, but also more general questions of science, paths and limits of its development, which greatly concerned O. V. Krylov in recent years.
Prof. Krylov’s work of more than 60 years consisted of 12 monographs, more than 450 papers and reviews, and tens of patents. More than 50 candidate and doctoral dissertations were defended under his leadership and with his participation as a consultant.
Written by Mikail Sinev, translated by Alexis Bell.