In Memoriam: George C.A. Schuit (1910 – 2001)

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