George Andrew Olah

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George Andrew Olah
Oláh György előadása 8299.jpg
Born Oláh György
(1927-05-22) May 22, 1927 (age 88)
Budapest, Hungary
Citizenship dual, Hungarian and American
Fields Chemistry
Institutions Case Western Reserve University, University of Southern California
Alma mater Budapest University of Technology and Economics
Known for Carbocations via superacids
Notable awards ACS Henry Morley Medal (1970)
California Scientist of the Year (1989)
Tolman Award (1991)
Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1994)
ACS F. A. Cotton Medal (1996)
ACS Arthur C. Cope Award (2001)
Order of the Rising Sun (2003)
Priestley Medal (2005)
Hungarian Order of Pro Merit (2006)
Spouse Judith Lengyel (m. 1949; 2 children)

George Andrew Olah (born Oláh György; May 22, 1927) is a Hungarian and American chemist. His research involves the generation and reactivity of carbocations via superacids. For this research, Olah was awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1994.[2] He has also been awarded the Priestley Medal, the highest honor granted by the American Chemical Society and F.A. Cotton Medal for Excellence in Chemical Research of the American Chemical Society in 1996.


Olah was born in Budapest, Hungary, on May 22, 1927, to Magda (Krasznai) and Julius Oláh, a lawyer.[3] 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 in Sarnia, Ontario, with another Hungarian chemist, Stephen J. Kuhn. Olah's pioneering work on carbocations started during his eight years with Dow.[4] In 1965 he returned to academia at Case Western Reserve University and then to the 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.[5]

The Olah family formed an endowment fund (the George A. Olah Endowment) which grants annual awards to outstanding chemists. The awards are selected and administered by the American Chemical Society.[6]


The search for stable carbocations led to the discovery of protonated methane which was stabilized by superacids, like FSO3H-SbF5 ("Magic Acid").

CH4 + H+ → CH5+

Olah was also involved in a career-long battle with Herbert C. Brown of Purdue over the existence of so-called "nonclassical" carbocations – such as the norbornyl cation, which can be depicted as cationic character delocalized over several bonds.

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.

Selected publications[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1994". The Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ George A. Olah (1965). Friedel-Crafts and Related Reactions. New York: John Wiley and Sons. 
  5. ^ George A. Olah (2005). "Beyond Oil and Gas: The Methanol Economy". Angewandte Chemie International Edition 44 (18): 2636–2639. doi:10.1002/anie.200462121. PMID 15800867. 
  6. ^ "George A. Olah Award in Hydrocarbon or Petroleum Chemistry", Chemical & Engineering News, January 19, 2009, p. 74


  • George A. Olah (2000). A Life Of Magic Chemistry: Autobiographical Reflections of a Nobel Prize Winner. Wiley-Interscience. ISBN 978-0-471-15743-4. 

External links[edit]