Olah, George Andrew

Olah, George Andrew,

1927–2017, American chemist, b. Budapest, Ph.D. Budapest Univ. of Technology and Economics, 1949. Olah was a researcher at Dow Chemical from 1957 to 1965 and a professor at Western Reserve Univ. and then Case Western Univ. from 1965 to 1977. From 1977 until his death, he was a professor at the Univ. of Southern California, where he was the founding director of the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute. Olah was awarded the 1994 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his contributions to carbocation chemistry. Carbocations, or positively charged hydrocarbonshydrocarbon
, any organic compound composed solely of the elements hydrogen and carbon. The hydrocarbons differ both in the total number of carbon and hydrogen atoms in their molecules and in the proportion of hydrogen to carbon.
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, are very short-lived, reactive intermediates in many reactions of organic molecules and are therefore difficult to study. Olah found that stable carbocations could be prepared through the use of extremely strong superacids, enabling the properties of carbocations to be determined. This work advanced the understanding of hydrocarbon chemisty and led to the development of cleaner-burning gasoline and a variety of new drugs. He also studied methanol for use as an alternative, renewable fuel.