September 22, 1900–April 22, 1985
BY WALTER S. KOSKI
PAUL HUGH EMMETT was an outstanding investigator in the field of heterogeneous catalysis. His work is distinguished by the use of highly ingenious experimental methods to probe the basic mechanisms in catalytical processes. His studies on the adsorption of gases on solids led to a method of measurement of the surface area of catalysts and laid the foundation for the Brunauer-Emmett-Teller theory of adsorption, which has been of fundamental significance in the field of heterogeneous catalysis.
Emmett was born in Portland, Oregon. His father worked in various jobs associated with railroad construction. His mother kept house, and in the summer months she frequently cooked for a crew of ten to forty workers who might have been working under his father's supervision. Both parents had a limited education, but they provided Paul with a happy home with all the feeling of security a growing boy could want. They were determined that their son should go as far in school as his interests and ability permitted. All of Emmett's pregraduate school training took place in Oregon. He attended Washington High School in Portland. He was a good student but disliked that portion of high school English that required oral presentation. He had a fear of