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Haldor F. A. Topsøe

by Susan J. Ainsworth
June 17, 2013 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 91, ISSUE 24


Haldor F. A. Topsøe, founder of the global catalyst firm Haldor Topsøe, died on May 20 after breaking his hip in a fall, four days before his 100th birthday.

Born in Copenhagen, Topsøe studied physics under Nobel Laureate Niels Bohr at the University of Copenhagen and earned an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the Technical University of Denmark in 1936.

After working for the Danish chemical firm Aarhus Oliefabrik, he founded Haldor Topsøe in 1939. Initially, the firm developed expertise in industrial catalytic processes but later expanded into manufacturing catalysts and designing and developing catalytic chemical reactors and related hardware.

Topsøe remained actively involved in the daily operations of the company, serving as chairman of the board until a few weeks before his death.

A humanitarian with a keen interest in helping people living in developing countries, he worked to hone technologies to address global challenges related to energy, food supply, and the environment. Topsøe received numerous awards, including Denmark’s Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog and the Hoover Medal, which is given by five U.S. engineering societies. He was named Engineer of the Century by the Danish Society of Engineers.

Topsøe was an ACS member for almost 75 years, joining in 1938.

Topsøe is survived by his children, Flemming, Birgitte, Lissen, and Henrik, and 10 grandchildren. His wife, Inger, predeceased him.

Obituary notices of no more than 300 words may be sent to Susan J. Ainsworth at and should include an educational and professional history.



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