Federation of European Zeolite Associations

Herman van Bekkum

Obituary in -pdf

Professor Herman van Bekkum

We received the very sad news that Em. Prof. Dr. ir. Herman van Bekkum, who was one of the founders of the Dutch Zeolite Association (DZA) and the first President of the Federation of European Zeolite Associations (FEZA), passed away on November 30, 2020.

Herman van Bekkum was born in 1932 in Rotterdam. He graduated in chemical technology (1956) with Prof. Verkade and then obtained his Ph.D. (1959) with Prof. Wepster at the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft, back then TH Delft). After working for two years as a researcher at Shell, he returned to the TU Delft in 1961 with a position as Lecturer. In 1971, he was appointed as Professor in Organic Chemistry and Catalysis. From 1975 to 1976 he served as Rector Magnificus of the TU Delft. Through the years he covered other important positions, including Chairman of the KNCV (Royal Netherlands Chemical Society) and Chairman of the Innovative Carbohydrates Research Program. In 1995 he was elected Member of the KNAW (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences). In 1991 he was appointed Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion and in 2007 Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau.

His research focused on two main topics: zeolites and carbohydrate chemistry, with an overarching interest for catalytic conversion of organic compounds. We all remember him for his scientific qualities and his liveliness and enthusiasm in participating in scientific discussions, also for many years after his official retirement in 1998. People who met him at the TU Delft would certainly remember his availability in providing useful scientific advice to young researchers that knocked at the door of his office, which had a table covered with books, papers and models of zeolite structures that proved his never-ending enthusiasm for his research. He was also a familiar and welcome presence at the Netherlands’ Catalysis and Chemistry Conference, which he attended regularly until recent years. People that met him and talked with him would remember not only the brilliant scientist but also a person with many other passions and with whom the conversation was always enriching, regardless whether the topic was a zeolite framework, his Alfa Romeo or playing chess.

In this sad moment our thoughts go out to the family of Prof. Herman van Bekkum. His memory will remain with us and hopefully we will be able to pass what we learnt from him to the next generations.

On behalf of the Dutch Zeolite Association and of the Dutch Catalysis Society, Prof. Dr. Paolo P. Pescarmona