Paul B. Weisz grew up in Berlin, Germany, and as a child dreamed of studying in the United States. At age 16, Weisz wrote to three American universities and was accepted by Auburn University through an exchange program. Weisz completed his B.S. degree at Auburn in 1940.
Shortly after, Weisz joined Mobil Research and Development Corporation as a research associate. While at Mobil, Weisz became interested in catalysts—a substance that speeds up a chemical reaction. He pioneered the use of zeolites, crystalline solid structures made of silicon, aluminum and oxygen, as catalysts for petroleum refining and manufacturing.
Zeolite catalysts revolutionized refining processes because they facilitated only certain reactions between molecules, increasing both the amount of gasoline obtainable from petroleum and the octane rating of gasoline. Weisz’s chemical discovery also paved the way for production of raw materials in making polyester garments, plastics, and other products from petroleum.
By Jen Santisi