Professor Lovat Rees


Born: 7 November, 1927, in Aberdeen. Died: 1 May, 2006, in Edinburgh, aged 78.

LOVAT Rees was a physical chemist with an international reputation in zeolite chemistry. He was born in Aberdeen in 1927 where he later attended Robert Gordon's College before going on to study chemistry at the University of Aberdeen, graduating with first-class honours in 1950. He was the winner of the Centre Gold Medal, being the most distinguished graduate of his year. It was during this time that he met his future wife, Elizabeth, who was a fellow student of chemistry.

Staying on at Aberdeen, to do research with Professor Richard Barrer, he became one of the pioneers of zeolite chemistry. After being awarded his PhD he went to work at AWRE Aldermaston where, in 1955, he became senior scientific officer in charge of the nuclear chemistry group. However, when Prof Barrer moved to Imperial College, London, in 1958, Lovat decided to join him as lecturer in physical chemistry and to continue their strong alliance in zeolite research.

Many readers will be familiar with the term "zeolite" as zeolites are widely used to soften water and to enhance the efficiency of detergents. They are also used in numerous industrial areas, such as selective catalysis in the petrochemical sector and for gas separation and purification. Rees made many fundamental advances in our understanding of the way in which zeolites function at the molecular level and his advice was widely sought. His contribution to the field of zeolite chemistry led to international recognition and he was promoted to senior lecturer (1970), reader (1979) and then professor (1986). During this period he was awarded the DSc degree from the University of Aberdeen (1976) and he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1996.

In 1977, Rees was one of the key group that founded the British Zeolite Association and was elected its first chairman at the inaugural meeting. He was also elected a member of the Council of the International Zeolite Association (1977-83) and played a prominent role in its activities; he held an honorary fellowship of the Federation of European Zeolite Associations. In 1981, he organised the first in a series of Gordon-type Conferences on zeolites, at Chislehurst, in Kent, and the series continues to attract delegates from all over the world.

In parallel with all of these activities, Lovat was the driving force behind the foundation, in 1980, of the journal Zeolites, which became the leading vehicle for publications in this area. He went on to serve as the European editor of the journal for 17 years, until it was merged with the journal Microporous Materials.

Rees retired from Imperial College in 1993, becoming professor emeritus, and then moved to Edinburgh. His retirement proved to be short lived and as an honorary fellow in the department of chemistry at the University of Edinburgh he re-established a research group and continued his work on zeolites, unencumbered by teaching and administration. He attracted collaborators from many parts of the world, most notably Hungary and China. His collaboration with Professor Zhaolin Sun at the Fushun Petroleum Institute, Liaoning University, was particularly fruitful and numerous exchange visits were made in both directions. Rees was made an honorary professor of the Fushun Petroleum Institute in 2001 and made annual visits accompanied by his wife. He received numerous other awards including, the International Zeolite Association Award (2001), the South African Catalysis Society Eminent Visitors Award (2002) and the Japan Society for Promotion of Science Award (2003). He published some 280 papers and was awarded several patents.

Rees was not only a gifted chemist, he was president and captain of the St Nicholas Rifle and Pistol Club, representing Scotland in international rifle matches at Bisley. He also played club cricket and was a keen golfer.

He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, who gave him untiring support, their four children and five grandchildren.