ICDD Awards - Distinguished Fellowship Award 1984

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Ludo Frevel (1910-2011)

It is with great sadness that we report the death of one of our dearest ICDD friends and founding fathers, Ludo Frevel.  He passed away on Saturday, 15 January 2011, at Bickford Cottage of Midland, Michigan.  Born in Frankfurt, Germany, 31 May 1910, Ludo recently joined the rank of “Centenarian”, celebrating his 100th birthday among friends and family.

Ludo earned a doctorate in Physical Chemistry from Johns Hopkins University, followed by two years of study at the California Institute of Technology with structural chemist and Nobel laureate, Linus Pauling. He joined Dow’s Spectroscopy Laboratory in 1936, where he worked as one of Dow’s pioneer chemists for 39 years. Upon retirement, he was one of Dow’s top scientists and was the first Dow scientist to have the title Research Specialist. Until 2005, he served as a consultant to Dow Corning Corporation. He held 60 patents and authored or co-authored 446 technical papers, publishing his most recent paper at age 95.

Ludo’s work in X-ray powder diffraction and catalysis, particularly in the petrochemical industry, is known worldwide. He was also recognized for his method of purifying ethylene to make polyethylene. However, the accomplishment he was most proud of was his work on the purification of butadiene for synthetic rubber.

Ludo’s association with the ICDD spanned many decades. His pioneering work began with his vital contributions to the 1938 Hanawalt, Rinn and Frevel paper entitled, Chemical Analysis by X-ray Diffraction - Classification and Use of X-ray Diffraction Patterns, published in the Analytical Edition of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry. This work, which supplied tabulated diffraction data for 1,000 chemical substances and included the indexing and comparison methods for identifying materials, is considered by most diffractionists to be the classic work in qualitative identification of multiphase polycrystalline materials. This work directly lead to the creation of the Powder Diffraction File™, and the tabulated data were the genesis of Set 1, published in 1941.

As an active member, Ludo served the ICDD in many capacities. He published one of the first papers on the use of computers in both the searching and matching steps of crystalline phase identification. From 1978 through 1996, he assumed various leadership roles by serving as a member of the Board of Directors; as such, he performed the duties of Member-at-Large, Consultant to the Board, Chairman, and Past Chairman. 

Over the years, Ludo was honored for his contributions to the X-ray analysis field as well as those to the ICDD. The ICDD established the J.D. Hanawalt Award for excellence in powder diffraction in the early 1980s; Ludo was named as the first recipient - a title well deserved! For his long and meritorious service to the ICDD, Ludo was designated as an ICDD Distinguished Fellow in 1984.

Ludo’s commitment to the education of young scientists was exemplified in his establishment of the Crystallography Scholarship Program. To encourage promising graduate students to pursue crystallographically-oriented research, he founded the Crystallography Scholarship Program in 1991. Administered by the ICDD, the program’s name was changed in 2000 to honor Ludo as its founder. In addition, Ludo contributed significantly to the scholarship fund and actively solicited funding from private and academic sectors to sustain the program. As of January 2011, the Ludo Frevel Crystallography Scholarship Program has awarded 122 scholarships totaling over $282,000.
During his lifetime, Ludo mentored many scientists especially those working in X-ray diffraction at both The Dow Chemical Company and Dow Corning. Those who had the pleasure of working with Ludo remember him for his brilliant mind and passion for science. He was always willing to teach others, share ideas, and discuss methods, with a wonderful combination of gentleness and enthusiasm.

Ludo is survived by his three children, Mary (Kadish), Gordon, and Kurt; two grandchildren, Lesley Kadish, and Laura McConville; and two great-grandchildren, Hayden, and Maxwell. He was preceded in death by wife, Ruth; parents, Ludwig and Carrie; and his brothers, Raoul and Karl.

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Read more about the continually growing list of ICDD Distinguished Fellows.