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Gary B. McVicker

by Susan J. Ainsworth
February 22, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 8

Gary B. McVicker, a retired ExxonMobil Research & Engineering chemist, died on Jan. 22, one day before his 69th birthday, after a long struggle with lung cancer.

McVicker grew up in Boone, Iowa, and received a B.S. in chemistry and mathematics from Upper Iowa University, in Fayette, in 1963. He earned a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from the University of Wyoming, Laramie, in 1968, before joining Esso, now ExxonMobil, that same year. He was part of the inaugural staff of the company’s Linden, N.J., Corporate Research Laboratory. He remained with the company for 38 years before retiring in 2005 as a distinguished research associate and group leader.

A world-renowned researcher in the area of heterogeneous catalysis, McVicker gave more than 70 lectures about his work and is credited with 50 technical publications and 55 U.S. patents.

With a deep knowledge of physical inorganic chemistry, thermodynamics, and kinetic-modeling techniques, McVicker was an expert in defining structure and function relationships in both metal and solid acid-promoted hydrocarbon conversion reactions. He helped commercialize platinum-iridium bimetallic reforming catalysts, which were crucial to the phaseout of lead from gasoline in the U.S. in the 1970s.

He was a member of Sigma Xi and ACS, which he joined in 1973. He was director of the Catalysis Society of Metropolitan New York, as well as a board member and vice president of the North American Catalysis Society. He served on the editorial board of the Journal of Catalysis and was chair of the 1994 Gordon Research Conference on Catalysis.

McVicker received the Excellence in Catalysis Award from the Catalysis Society of Metropolitan New York in 1995, the F. G. Ciapetta Lectureship in Catalysis in 2000, and the George A. Olah Award in Petroleum Chemistry from ACS in 2002. For his efforts in mentoring young scientists, McVicker received the Exxon Golden Tiger Award in 1995.

He is survived by his wife, Catherine; son, Andrew; and daughter, Mercedes.



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