near Paris, France, on April 18, 1892, Eugene Jules Houdry was the
son of a wealthy steel manufacturer. He studied mechanical engineering
at the Ecole des Arts et MŞtiers in Chalons-sur-Marne, a Paris suburb.
He graduated in 1911, earning the French government's gold medal for
the highest scholastic achievement in his class. He was captain of
his school's soccer team, which won the championship of France that
joined his father's business, but left for military training right
before the outbreak of World War I. He served in the French army
as a lieutenant in the tank corps and in 1917 was seriously wounded
in the battle of Juvincourt, winning the Croix de Guerre for his
actions and later becoming a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.
the war, Houdry rejoined his father at Houdry et Fils, but by 1922
was making his way in the field of catalytic processes for the conversion
of coal and lignite to gasoline. His interest in high-octane gasoline
was fueled by his avid interest in automobile engines and in road
racing, where he competed in a Bugatti racing car.
addition to the process for high-octane gasoline, Houdry also invented
a catalytic process for the production of butadiene from the butane
gas derived from crude oil production. Butadiene became an important
resource during World War II. It was one of the two components used
in the synthetic rubber program initiated after natural rubber supplies
were eliminated by the war in the Pacific.
was outspoken in his opposition to wartime collaboration with the
Germans by the French Vichy government of Marshall Henri PŞtain.
On May 3, 1941, the Vichy government declared that Houdry had lost
his French citizenship. He then became president of the U.S. chapter
of "France Forever"Ćan organization dedicated to the support
of General Charles de Gaulle, the nominal head of the French government
in exileĆand in January 1942, he became a United States citizen.
His two sons, Jacques and Pierre, served in the United States Army
during World War II, and Houdry directed his efforts toward industrial
processes crucial to the war effort.
World War II, Houdry formed the Oxy-Catalyst Company and turned
his attention to reducing the health risks associated with the increasing
amounts of automobile and industrial air pollution. His generic
catalytic converter, which greatly reduced the amount of carbon
monoxide and unburned hydrocarbons in automobile exhausts, was granted
U.S. Patent 2,742,437 in 1956. Today, catalytic converters made
by various companies are standard devices on all American cars.
colorful life was full of great ambitions. His unusually productive
career was characterized by unique foresight, bold imagination,
creative leadership, persistence and, above all, action. Houdry's
contributions to catalytic technology were recognized by numerous
awards, including the Potts Medal of the Franklin Institute in 1948,
the Perkin Medal of the Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)
in 1948, the E. V. Murphree Award in Industrial and Engineering
Chemistry of the American Chemical Society in 1962, and posthumous
election to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990. He was
awarded honorary Doctor of Science degrees by Pennsylvania Military
College in 1940 and by Grove City College in 1943. In 1967, the
Catalysis Society of North America established the Houdry Award
in Applied Catalysis.
died on July 18, 1962, at the age of 70, survived by his sons and
his wife, Genevieve Quilleret. At that time he was actively working
on creative ideas for using catalytic processes to improve human