In Memoriam: Pioneering Leader Who Developed Widely Used Tools of Chemical Analysis, Csaba Horváth

Csaba Horváth, The Roberto C. Goizueta Professor of Chemical Engineering at Yale, a leading researcher in modern chromatography, which impacts almost all branches of medicine, science and technology, died on April 13 in New Haven. He was 74.

During his long and distinguished career, Horváth was the first scientist to design, construct and show molecular separations using high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) (now called high performance liquid chromatography), which has since become a billion-dollar business and has led to many discoveries in the fields of medicine, biochemistry and biology. Used to separate and analyze proteins and nucleic acids, HPLC is an indispensable technology in the pharmaceutical industry for analysis and purification of molecules used in the treatment of illnesses such as heart disease and circulatory and neurological disorders. Horv‡th and colleagues have also collaborated with researchers at Yale School of Medicine to create new chemical tests to identify differences in composition of cancer cells and normal cells.

In addition to advancing the evolution of HPLC, Horváth studied electrophoretic separation techniques for biological substances and developed novel processes for ultra purification of proteins and the separation of complex carbohydrates. Horváth was also one of the pioneers in enzyme technology, particularly immobilized-enzyme reactors.

“Csaba was an inspirational researcher whose discoveries and high degree of professional excellence brought credit to Yale University for several decades,” said Dean of Yale Engineering, Paul Fleury. “His loyalty and dedication to his students was only matched by theirs to him. He was a colleague valued by his department and the rest of the Faculty of Engineering, but also by the entire Yale Community. We are deeply saddened by his untimely passing and offer our thoughts and prayers to his family and friends.”

Born in Hungary, Horváth was educated in Hungary and Germany and received his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt in 1963. Prior to that, he had worked for some years as a plant manager in Frankfurt. After obtaining his degree, he became a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital associated with Harvard University. He became a research associate at Yale University School of Medicine from 1964 to 1970 and was appointed associate professor of engineering and applied science in 1972. He became professor in 1979 and was chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering from 1987-1993. During that time, he was also named the Llewellyn West Jones Professor of Chemical Engineering and in 1998 the Roberto C. Goizueta Professor of Chemical Engineering.

Horváth’s many discoveries and developments helped revolutionize research in biology and biotechnology. He was among the leaders informing the new field of bioengineering and was a founding fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biomedical Engineers. This field is now a separate section of the National Academy of Engineering, an institution to which Horváth was elected this year. He was very proud of this honor.

Csaba received numerous international awards and was equally proud of the recognition his American peers gave him. A partial list of his awards include the Tswett Award from the USSR Academy of Sciences, the Humboldt Award for U.S. Senior Scientists, numerous recognitions from the American Chemical Society, the Merit Award from the National Institutes of Health, a gold medal from the Chromatography Society of the United Kingdom, and just last year the Torbern Bergman Medal from the Swedish Chemical Society.

A prolific researcher, Horváth served on the boards of many prestigious journals and authored or co-authored nearly 300 papers and book chapters and held numerous patents under his name. He served on numerous review panels for the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation and was a member of many professional organizations, including the American Chemical Society, the Institute of Food Technologies, and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

He is survived by his former wife, Valeria Scioscioli, two children, Donatella of New York City and Katalin of London, England and a sister, Tunde Pungor of Budapest, Hungary.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 8 at Battell Chapel, corner of Elm and College Streets. The reception will be at noon at the New Haven Lawn Club.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Csaba Horváth Memorial Fund, c/o Department of Chemical Engineering, Yale University, P.O. Box 208286, New Haven Conn. 06520-8286.

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Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-432-1326