He attends one of the best schools in Budapest run by the Piarist Fathers, a Roman Catholic order.
George Olah is awarded the 1994 Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for his contribution to carbocation chemistry”.
Under Communist rule, Olah is invited in 1954 to join the new Central Chemical Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and establishes a small research group in organic chemistry.
Having finished school and survived the ravages of war, Olah opts to study chemistry at the Technical University of Budapest. He becomes a research assistant to Geza Zemplen, a formidable figure with a work hard, play hard attitude, indulging in drink binges but with the best reputation for organic chemistry in the country. Olah studies fluorine carbohydrates, but with postwar shortages has to make most of the chemicals involved himself. In 1949, Olah receives his doctorate.
He stays at the University of Budapest as a teacher for the next five years.
Then they move to Canada, where Olah and two of his team are employed at Dow Chemical. There Olah begins his work on stable carbocations (positively charged fragments of hydrocarbons), common intermediates in organic reactions. Olah uses superacids and ultracold solvents to disassemble, examine and recombine carbocations. His breakthrough, announced in 1962, launches a new field of organic chemistry and leads to the development of new carbon-based fuels and higher-octane gasoline.
In 1964 he transfers to Dow’s laboratories in Framingham, MA.
After twelve years in Cleveland, he moves to the University of Southern California at Los Angeles, where he becomes director of the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute in 1980. He goes on to explore clean renewable fuels based on the use of methanol.
He marries Judith Lengyel, who joins him in his work. They have two sons. (1949)
George Andrew Olah is born in Budapest, Hungary.
When Hungary revolts against Soviet rule late in 1956, Olah, his family and much of his research group take the opportunity to flee to the West. They first head to London where he establishes personal contact to other organic chemists.
In the following year, he returns to academic life as a professor at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, also becoming chair of the chemistry department. He remains there until 1977.