Paul Burgan Weisz
Born(1919-07-02)July 2, 1919
DiedSeptember 25, 2012(2012-09-25) (aged 93)
Alma materAuburn University

Paul Burgan Weisz (July 2, 1919–September 25, 2012) was a Czechoslovak-born American chemist, noted for his work on solid catalysts, which had a major impact on petroleum refining.


Weisz was born July 2, 1919, in Plzeň, Czechoslovakia, the son of Alexander and Amalia Weisz. They moved to Berlin and finally emigrated to the United States in 1939.[1][2] He married and was survived by his wife, Rhoda, his son, Randy, and his daughter, Ingrid. He died on September 25, 2012, in State College, Pennsylvania.[2]


Weisz studied physics at the Technical University of Berlin and then at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute, where he received a B.S. degree in 1940. He took a sabbatical from work and gained a doctorate at ETH Zurich in 1966.[1][2]


Weisz produced 91 US patents and more than 180 papers, many related to diffusion behavior, which he applied to solid catalysts, dyeing, and the movement of chemicals in cells.[1]

Early career

While studying in Berlin, he also worked on Geiger counter instrumentation and cosmic ray measurements at the Institute of Cosmic Radiation Research. After graduating in the US, he carried out further work in these fields at the Bartol Research Foundation of the Franklin Institute and was seconded to MIT to help develop a long-range radio navigation system, LORAN. He also taught part-time at Swarthmore College.[3]


In 1946, he joined Mobil as a Research Assistant, turning his attention to diffusion and catalysis, eventually rising to become Manager of the Central Research Laboratory, and staying there until his retirement in 1984.[1][3] It was there that he carried out the work which made him most famous. The development of shape-selective catalysts revolutionized many petroleum refining and chemical processes.[2] A 1960 paper, "Intracrystalline and Molecular-Shape-Selective Catalysis by Zeolite Salts",[4] coauthored with Vince Frilette, a Mobil colleague, became the foundation of shape-selective catalysis (which accelerated certain chemical reactions, but only for molecules of particular shape) and one of his most widely cited papers. Processes based on this and subsequent work were first commercialized in the early 1960s.[1]

The company permitted him a sabbatical period from 1964 to 1966 at ETH Zurich, where he earned a doctorate, setting the foundation for some of the fundamental laws of diffusion in dyeing.[1]

Academic career

From 1974 to 1976, he was a visiting professor at Princeton University. From 1983 on, he was a distinguished professor of chemical and bio-engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. Since 1993, he has been an adjunct professor in chemical engineering at Pennsylvania State University.[3] In this period, he applied chemical and physical principles to biomedical research, including work with Madeleine M. Joullié on the synthesis of a molecule equivalent to heparin which avoided the dangerous side-effects of the natural molecule.[1]


See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Degnan, Jr, Thomas (2015). Memorial Tributes, Volume 19. National Academies Press. pp. 311–316. ISBN 978-0-309-37720-1. Archived from the original on 2018-07-28. Retrieved 2018-09-17.
  2. ^ a b c d Ainsworth, Susan (November 26, 2012). "Paul B Weisz". Chemical & Engineering News. 90 (48): 42. Archived from the original on September 17, 2018. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Bohning, James. "Paul B. Weisz". Science History Institute Center for Oral History. Archived from the original on December 1, 2018. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  4. ^ Weisz, P. B.; Frilette, V. J. (1960). "Intracrystalline and Molecular-Shape-Selective Catalysis by Zeolite Salts". Journal of Physical Chemistry. 64 (3): 382. doi:10.1021/j100832a513.
  5. ^ "Paul B. Weisz". National Science and Technology Medals Foundation. Archived from the original on September 17, 2018. Retrieved September 17, 2018.