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Obituary: Robert Karl Grasselli

by Linda Wang
July 6, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 28


Photo of Robert Karl Grasselli.
Credit: Courtesy of Douglas Buttrey
Robert Karl Grasselli

Robert Karl Grasselli, 87, died on Jan. 11 in Munich.

“Robert Karl Grasselli was a highly accomplished and innovative industrial chemist, renowned for his seminal contributions to the design, development, and commercial exploitation of novel solid catalysis. Inventor in 175 U.S. patents, he was instrumental in developing a fundamentally new method of producing the polymer precursor, acrylonitrile. The key innovation in this one-step process was the use microcrystalline bismuth molybdate; the process was so effective that, after its adoption worldwide, a 50-fold increase of acrylonitrile production was achieved. Grasselli won an ACS petroleum division award, the E. V. Murphree Award, and the Edward W. Morley Medal. He also earned an honorary doctorate from the University of Bologna and was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering. He played a crucial role in the bringing the Gordon Research Conferences to Europe. He also founded the Robert Karl Grasselli Foundation, which sponsors the Irsee Conferences.”—Doug Buttrey, William Goddard III, and Raul Lobo, friends and colleagues

Most recent title: distinguished affiliated professor, Technical University of Munich

Education: B.S., chemistry, Harvard University, 1952; Ph.D., chemistry, Case Western Reserve University, 1959

Survivors: wife, Eva-Maria Hauck-Grasselli

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