In Memoriam: Laszlo Guczi (1932–2012)

Professor László Guczi

Pro­fes­sor Lás­zló Guczi

Pro­fes­sor Lás­zló Guczi a wide­ly known and respect­ed sci­en­tist passed away on 20th Decem­ber 2012 after a long bat­tle with ill­ness. He showed us what a clas­sic schol­ar is like: pro­fes­sion­al, knowl­edge­able, patient and kind.

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.