Princeton Dean Leads the Field In Catalytic Studies

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  • THE CHEMICAL W O R L D THIS WEEK

    The Cover .

    Princeton Dean Leads the Field In Catalytic Studies TUGH Stott Taylor, the four th dean -* ** of the Princeton Graduate School and holder of numerous scientific honors, is the Reinsen Memorial Lecturer this year. That he should choose as his subject "Solid State and Physics Catalysis" conies as n o surprise. As a mailer of fact, the foremost authority in the fields of contact catalysis and surface chemistry is proLably none other than Hugh T?.yior.

    His formative years as a young chemist were well spent under the direction of such uotables as F. C. Donnan, the best pHysical chemist in England, according t o Taylor; Svante Arrhenius at the NJobel Institute of Stockholm in Sweden ; and Bodenstein in Germany under wliom h e received a thorough grounding in chemical kinetics.

    Taylor took his B.S. a t Liverpool University in 1909, and followed up with an M.S. in 1910 and his doctorate in 1914 at the same university. He came to the United States shortly thereafter for a short stay, but decided to make a career of it.

    As an instructor at Princeton University, Taylor was soon tabbed a s a very erudite young cheinist who could call his shots with a h igh degree of accuracy. An anonymous writer h a d this to say about him: "It is the winter of 1914. A Nobel Prize winner, t h e greatest authority in his field, is lecturing to an awed faculty group in the old chem lab. He concludes ri is Delphic remarks and asks for discussion. Bearded professors comment deferentially. Suddenly, a very b lond and very young man rises to confute the learned visitor. Eyebrows are raised throughout the hall, for instructors are supposed to speak diffidently, if at all. The eyebrows soon descend, however, for the youngster speaks n o t only with spirit and critical vigor, b u t with exceptional common sense. Eight years later, this young man became a full professor; four years more, a n d at the age of 36 years, he was chairman of t h e Chemistry Depar tment ."

    In the meantime, his researches led to the production o f improved hydro-genated fats, cheaper product ion of formaldehyde, and an industrial synthesis of wood alcolnol. Through much of his work, hydrogen seems t o play an important part , b u t the predominant role is that of catalysis.

    His most recent thinking on the subject of active centers in heterogeneous catalysis involves a n understanding of

    the mechanism whereby chemical reaction occurs at surlaces which in turn requires a more complete understanding of the solid state and its physics. Taylor has pointed the way by interpreting data on catalysis at meta l surfaces and binary compounds in terms of the concepts of defect s t ructures and of the metallic state ( Pauling's theory of resonance ).

    In 1935, Taylor and coworkers had "boiled" 75 tons of wa te r down to 10 drops of heavy water containing one part of hydrogen of mass three in 10,-000 parts. This heavy hydrogen ( t r i t ium) is normally found in ordinary water in concentrations of 1 par t in 10 billion parts. A later discovery that tritium was radioactive cast some doub t on the Princeton work, and Taylor was lectured rather severely by Lord Rutherford for arriving at a "foolish" conclusion. Taylor has been gratified to learn very recently tha t Rutherford's own heavy wate r was also radioactive.

    His scientific honors are numerous and include his recent election to t h e presidency of the Society of Sigma Xi and an honorary doctorate of laws to be conferred July 7, 1951, by his a lma mater in Liverpool. H e is a member of the Royal Society of London, and in 1943 became a fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among other awards are several honorary d e grees; he has been elected a foreign member of academies and societies in Italy, France , Belgium, and Poland; h e was made Commander of the Order of Leopold II of Belgium in 1938 a n d was Francqui Professor, University of Lou vain during 1937. In recognition of his research work in the field of catalysis, Taylor has received the Nichols Medal of the A M E R I C A N C H E M I C A L SOCIETY in 1928; the Mendel Medal in 1933 at Villanova College; the research award and plaque of the Research Corp. of New York ( along with Van-nevar Bush in 1939) ; the Frankl in Medal of the American Philosophical Society in 1941; and the Longstaff Medal of the Chemical Society of London in 1942.

    In chart ing the course for the future, Taylor envisions a br ight opportunity to devise new approaches to old objectives through the use of tracer techniques. He says that " the isotope has become the chemist 's messenger boy in journeys of discovery," and he foresees a brilliant future for " t racer chemistry." Doubtless, Dean Taylor will play an important role in tha t future.

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    The Cover...Princeton Dean Leads the Field In Catalytic Studies