Michel Che

Michel Che (1941 - 2019)#

Academia Europaea are saddened to announce the death of Michel Che, a long-standing member of Academia Europaea, former Section Chair of the Chemical Sciences section and greatly valued member of the Council and the Board of Academia Europaea.

Michel was born in Lyon in December 1941. After a chemical engineering degree at the Ecole Supérieure de Chimie Industrielle de Lyon (ESCIL, now CPELyon) Michel joined the Institut de Recherches sur la Catalyse, CNRS laboratory in Villeurbanne, a suburb of Lyon. There he obtained a PhD degree in 1968from the University of Lyon. His research was on titanium dioxide under the supervision of Dr. Claude Naccache a subject that continued to fascinate him throughout his career. He then spent two years in the USA at Princeton, Chemistry Department working with Prof John Turkevich. Between 1972 and 1982 he collaborated with Antony Tench at the atomic energy research establishment at Harwell, UK and during this time he wrote a key paper on titanium dioxide with Tony. He subsequently moved from Lyon to Paris and was promoted to Professor in 1975 at the université Pierre and Marie Curie-Paris-6, where he created the Laboratoire de Réactivité de Surface as director. In 1995 he became a senior member of the Institut Universitaire de France.

His research covered the reactivity of solid surfaces investigated from a molecular standpoint based on the combined use of transition metal complexes, specific isotopes and physical techniques. His work, which led to more than 450 publications, a two volume book (Characterization of Solid Materials and Heterogeneous Catalysts: From Structure to Surface Reactivity, 2012, Wiley) and 5 patents, has contributed to improving our understanding of the elementary steps developing at the solid-liquid (gas) interfaces during catalytic reactions and he carried out key studies aimed at bridging the gap between homogeneous and heterogeneous catalyses.

Michel was a keen member of Academia Europaea and was elected in 1992. He was committee member and also Chair of the Chemistry Section (2004 – 2013), a Council Member and member of the Board of Trustees (2009 – 2013). He hosted the Annual Conference in Paris in 2010 at the headquarters of UNESCO, which was a great success. Michel Che was invited to hold many key positions in the scientific community. He was president of the Catalysis Division of the Société Chimique de France and vice-president of this society (2007-2009). He was the Founding President of the European Federation of Catalysis Societies (EFCATS) 1993-1995 creating the biennial EuropaCat congresses which have benifited the wider catalysis community ever since. Subsequently, he was President of the International Association of Catalysis Societies (IACS) 2000-2004 and hosted the International Congress when it was held in Paris with great success in 2004.

He received many awards throughout his career. In France the prix franco-chinois de la SCF-Chinese Chemical Society (2018), in Italy the lauréat du prix de la Società Chimica Italiana (SCI) 2017, in the Netherlands the J.H. Van’t Hoff prize, in Poland the Sklodowska-Curie & P. Curie lectureships, in Germany the Von-Humbold-Gay Lussac award, the GDCh-Wittig lecture ship, in Japan the Japanese society for the promotion of science lectureship, in the UK the RSC centenary lectureship and the Faraday lectureship prize 2014, in the USA the Frontiers in Chemical Research award, Texas, in China the Gold Mof Chinese Academy of Science, the Friendship Award and International Science and technology cooperation award, 2008), and in Europe the François Gault EFCATS lectureship). His works earned him several honorary doctorates and fellowships (Germany academy of science Leopoldina, Academia Europaea, Hungarian academy of sciences, Polish academy of art and sciences, Honorary Professor of Fuzhou University 2018). Michel was member of the scientific committee of the Institut Français du pétrole (IFP, now IFPEN) for more than 30 years and he chaired the external advisory Board of the Cardiff Catalysis Institute for six years until he stepped down in January this year.

Michel collaborated with many scientists worldwide often through chairing advisory boards for many of the leading laboratories in China, Japan and Europe. He gave his time willingly and devoted himself to helping many scientists to develop both their ideas and their careers.

Michel Che is among the first French scientists who visited China as early as 1977 or 1978 when China was just opened to the world, In the following 40 years, he visited China more than 40 times with his great kindness and friendship. His relation with China was in part due to his father being born in China and emigrated to France (Lyon). He was invited and appointed to the Chairman of the Academic Committee of the State Key Laboratory of Catalysis in Dalian (the first state key laboratory in Catalysis field in China) during 2006-2014. As a chairman of the committee, he helped in many aspects, including to define research strategies, to foster young scientists and to promote the international collaborations, etc. Due to his great contributions to the scientific development of China, in particularly international cooperation between France and China, he was awarded the International Cooperation Award of China presented by the Chinese President, the highest honour for foreign scientists.

In addition to his significant scientific contributions, Michel was greatly appreciated by all for his human qualities. All his students recognised him as an outstanding mentor. As a chairman of many committees, he used his influence to great effect including by defining research strategies, by promoting international collaborations and by fostering and educating generations of young scientists to become active and leading scientists across the globe.

We shall always remember Michel’s contribution to catalysis and his friendship with great affection. His spririt and soul will remain in our hearts for ever.

Jacques Védrine MAE and Graham Hutchings MAE, Chair of the Chemical Sciences section

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