George Andrew Olah
(born May 22
, as Oláh György
) is a Hungarian
-born American chemist
. He was significant in stabilizing and in studying carbocations
. He won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry
in 1994. Soon after, he was awarded the Priestley Medal
, the highest honor granted by the American Chemical Society
Olah was born in Budapest, Hungary, on May 22, 1927. After the high school of Budapesti Piarista Gimnazium (Scolopi fathers
), he studied, then taught, at what is now Budapest University of Technology and Economics
. As a result of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution
, he and his family moved briefly to England
and then to Canada
where he joined Dow Chemical
, Ontario, with another Hungarian chemist, Stephen J. Kuhn. Olah's pioneering work on carbocations started during his eight years with Dow. In 1965 he returned to academia at Case Western Reserve University
and then to University of Southern California
in 1977. In 1971, Olah became a naturalized citizen
of the United States
Olah is currently a distinguished professor at the University of Southern California and the director of the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute. In 2005, Olah wrote an essay promoting the methanol economy.
The search for stable carbocations lead to the discovery of protonated methane which was stabilized by superacids, like FSO3H-SbF5 ("Magic Acid").
- CH4 + H+ → CH5+
In recent years, his research has shifted from hydrocarbons and their transformation into fuel to the methanol economy. He has joined with Robert Zubrin, Anne Korin, and James Woolsey in promoting a flexible-fuel mandate initiative.