George Schuit passed away peacefully on Sunday, December 9, 2001, at the blessed age of 91. He was a great scientist, an extremely friendly, generous, and inspiring person. After obtaining his PhD at the University of Leiden in 1938, George worked for 25 years at the Shell laboratories in Amsterdam, where he developed into one the pioneers of Dutch catalysis, and a leader of international stature. His research interests ranged from homogeneous to heterogeneous catalysis, from theoretical chemistry to spectroscopy, and from the molecular detail to the industrial application.
In 1961 he was appointed at the Eindhoven University of Technology to the chair of Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis, as the first professor in catalysis in the Netherlands. He supervised 22 PhD students and many more Masters students. His major fields of research were selective oxidation, hydrodesulfurization, and nitrogen fixation. Beginning in the early 1970’s, George began to spend a significant fraction of his time at the University of Delaware, and after his retirement from Eindhoven in 1976, he strengthened his commitment to Delaware, where he was influential in the start-up of a fledgling catalysis program that led to the establishment of the university’s Center for Catalytic Science and Technology in 1978. In Delaware, George collaborated extensively in research with numerous faculty and students, helped to start a short course, and worked with Jim Katzer and Bruce Gates to write the textbook “Chemistry of Catalytic Processes.” An annual lectureship in George’s honor was established in 1985; for many years, George was the honored guest at this lecture.
In the course of the eighties George and his wife returned to The Netherlands where they settled in Nuenen, just outside Eindhoven. In these years he came regularly to seminars and symposia in the University, but hardly in the laboratory. Modest as he was, he did not want to be in anyone’s way. We would have loved to see him more often to benefit from his experience and perspectives!
In 1989 Rutger van Santen – after Roel Prins, the second successor in Catalysis, who proceeded George at Eindhoven – founded an institute of catalysis, which served as the nucleation point for the Netherlands Institute of Catalysis Research (NIOK). The Eindhoven branch became the Schuit Institute of Catalysis, employing approximately 100 scientists and students and featuring twice per year the Schuit Lecture in Catalysis, with prominent speakers from all over the world. The major specialization of the Schuit Institute is the molecular description of catalysis aided by spectroscopy and theory, which is the field in George Schuit was a pioneer. This theme is also strongly in evidence in the work of the Delaware center. We are proud that George’s name is forever connected with catalysis research at Eindhoven and Delaware.
We will remember him as a pioneer of our profession, a great scientist of international caliber, and a wonderful and warm person, and an intellectual leader in catalysis.
Bruce Gates and Hans Niemantsverdriet