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heinzHeinz Heinemann, a petroleum chemist at UC Berkeley and LBNL, has died in Washington, D.C. at age 92

December 6, 2005

Berkeley – Heinz Heinemann, a long-time lecturer in the College of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, and a chemistry researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, died Nov. 23 of pneumonia at Sibley Hospital in Washington, D.C. He was 92.

During a 60-year career in industry and academia, Heinemann contributed to the invention and development of 14 commercial fossil fuel processes, received 75 patents and was the author of more than a hundred publications. Among his inventions was a process for converting methanol to gasoline.

At his death, he was a distinguished scientist in the Washington office of LBNL. During the period 2001 to 2004, he served as a manager of the Washington Chemical Society (ACS) and as president of its Retired Chemists Group.

Born in Berlin, Germany, he attended the University and Technische Hochschule in Berlin. When his doctoral dissertation was rejected because he was Jewish, he made his way to Basel, Switzerland, where he received his PhD in physical chemistry from the University of Basel, before coming to the United States in 1938. He became a U.S. citizen in 1944.

He worked for several petroleum companies in Louisiana and Texas and won a postdoctoral fellowship at the then-Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie-Mellon University. The fellowship was funded by the government of the Dominican Republic and involved research into ethanol, which was made from the Dominican Republic's primary cash crop, sugar cane.

He published more than 150 papers and over 50 patents in catalysis and petroleum chemistry, mostly while working for Houdry Process Corp., the MW Kellogg Co. as director of chemical and engineering research, and the Mobil Research and Development Co. as manager of catalysis research. During those years he actively participated in the research and development of 14 commercial processes, including the process for converting methanol to gasoline.

After retiring from industry in 1978, he joined the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as a researcher and became a lecturer in the Department of Chemical Engineering at UC Berkeley. His research involved coal gasification, catalytic coal liquefaction, hydrodenitrification, nitrogen oxide emission control and the development of a special catalyst that enables methane, the major component of natural gas, to be used to make petrochemicals. The research team he led invented and patented a process known as catalytic oxydehydrogenation.

He was a co-founder of the Philadelphia Catalysis Club, the Catalysis Society of North America and the International Congress of Catalysis, serving as its president from 1956 to 1960. He was the founder of Catalysis Reviews, and worked as its editor for 20 years. He also was Consulting Editor for over 90 books in the Chemical Industries Series, published by Marcel Dekker, Inc.

He received many honors, among them election to the National Academy of Engineering , the Houdry Award of the Catalysis Society, the Murphree Award of the American Chemical Society,  the H.H. Lowry Award presented for research he pursued in his seventies, and a Distinguished Scientist/Engineer award of the U.S. Department of Energy. In addition, he was elected a member of the Spanish Council for Scientific Research for his support in founding its Institute  of Catalysis and Petrochemistry.

He is survived by his wife of 10 years, Dr. Barbara Tenenbaum of Washington, D.C.; daughter Sue Heinemann of Oakland, Calif.; and son and daughter-in-law Peter M. Heinemann and Dana Kueffner of San Francisco. His first wife, Elaine P. Heinemann, died in 1993 after 46 years of marriage.

Contributions may be made in his memory to the Heinz Heinemann Memorial Fund. Donations should be made payable to the UC Berkeley Foundation and sent to the attention of:

Jane Scheiber
College of Chemistry
420 Latimer Hall, #1460
University of California,
Berkeley, CA 94720-1460

Contact information:

Robert Sanders
(510) 643-6998
rsanders@berkeley.edu