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On 26 December, 2022, Prof. C. Boelhouwer passed away at the age of 99. Kees Boelhouwer founded research in Chemical Engineering at the University of Amsterdam and led this from the start in 1962 until his retirement in 1985. He was an innovative researcher with a broad interest in chemical engineering and an inspiring professor who gave his students and PhD students a great deal of freedom.
Prof. C. Boelhouwer.

Prof. Boelhouwer began his academic career at Delft University of Technology where he was employed for thirteen years and in 1952 received his PhD for research on "Polymerization phenomena in fatty oils" with Prof. H.I. Waterman. In 1960 he joined TNO to be appointed professor of Chemical Engineering at the UvA shortly thereafter. With his inaugural lecture "Chemical Technology as Applied Natural Science Research" delivered on 22 January, 1962, he founded chemical technology at the UvA, including research on topics such as applied catalysis, energy carriers and wastewater treatment.

Among other subjects, the work on olefin metathesis was highly regarded internationally. The research led to new homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysts that allowed the reaction of functionalized olefins, which opened up a range of interesting application possibilities. Metathesis research, inspired in part by the Amsterdam work, led to the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2005. Boelhouwer's group also achieved appealing results in the fields of coal gasification and bioprocessing, especially wastewater treatment.

After his retirement in 1985, Boelhouwer remained active as a visiting professor of biotechnology for two more years. Until his retirement, a total of 274 students graduated with chemical or physical engineering as their main or minor subject, and more than thirty PhD degrees were awarded. Prof. Boelhouwer was awarded a Knight of the Order of the Dutch Lion.

Both in his research, where he did not fail to emphasize the importance of interdisciplinary integration, and in his dealings with people, Kees Boelhouwer always had a keen eye for the big picture. It is typical that at the presentation of an important German chemistry prize, he insisted that the analyst indispensable for the work - without an academic title - also be given her place on the stage. He will be remembered as an innovative, passionate researcher with a broad interest in chemical engineering, and as an inspiring professor who gave his students and PhD students much freedom.

See also

Biography of Prof. Boelhouwer maintained by the History of Chemistry group of the Royal Netherlands Chemical Society (in Dutch)