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Nobel Laureate George Olah Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

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Olah last year at a signing for his book, “A Life of Magic Chemistry: Autobiographical Reflections of a Nobel Prize Winner.”

Photo by Irene Fertik

George Olah, director of USC’s Loker Hydrocarbon Institute, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Nobel Laureate and distinguished professor of chemistry joins more than 4,000 renowned Academy fellows and foreign honorary members worldwide.

“Membership in this venerable international learned society is just the latest acclaim your celebrated career has earned,” wrote USC president Steven B. Sample in a congratulatory letter to Olah. Adding that Olah continues “to bring prestige and recognition to USC.”

Since joining the university in 1977, Olah has made significant research contributions to the broad field of hydrocarbon chemistry, including a new generation of direct methanol fuel cell, a highly efficient source of electricity with many applications.

In 1994, Olah won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his research in superacids � substances billions of times more acidic than even the strongest conventional acids � and his pioneering use of them in exploring the chemical reactions of hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons are the basis of many key industrial chemical products.

New, improved ways to make high-octane, lead-free gasoline, which has had a significant impact on efforts to clean up the environment, have also emerged from Olah’s work. In addition, his research has enabled the oil industry to produce more fuel from each barrel of crude.

With more than 50 years’ experience in chemistry, Olah points out the importance of the field and its contribution to science in general.

“Although we are at the stage now where biological sciences get most of the attention in the news,” said Olah, “many fields would not be able to advance without chemistry. It is the central science affecting other sciences.”

Born in Budapest, Hungary, Olah received his chemical training at the Technical University in Budapest in the 1950s. He left the country in 1956, in the wake of the Soviet invasion.

A member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Olah is the author of more than 1,200 publications and a dozen scientific textbooks and the holder of 120 patents.

His previous honors include four separate National American Chemical Society awards, the American Institute of Chemists Chemical Pioneer Award, the California Scientist of the Year Award and the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung Award for Senior U.S. Scientists, among others.

In November, he will be formally inducted into the AAAS in ceremonies at the House of the Academy in Cambridge, Mass.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences honors the excellence of the world’s leading scientists, scholars, artists, business people and public leaders. Among its fellows are more than 160 Nobel Prize laureates and 50 Pulitzer Prize winners.

Contact Gia Scafidi at (213) 740-9335.

Nobel Laureate George Olah Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

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