Tribute to Gérard Férey 1941 – 2017

Sep 22, 2017

The « Chemical Arts » have lost this summer one of their greatest contemporary actors and the French chemistry one of its prominent figures: Gérard Férey passed away at the age of 76.

He entered the educational profession as a teacher, driven by his family environment, and found his vocation by teaching and transmitting knowledge to establish the prominent place that education deserves for children, university students and also for the general public. This passion to communicate knowledge and the necessity to understand « how it works » have forged the mind of the future scientist who led him to teach in several kind of higher educational institutions and to finish his career as a professor at the Versailles Saint-Quentin University.

Gérard Férey, a fantastic drawer already in his childhood, was fascinated by the beauty of the forms defined by Platonist and Archimedean solids and has repeatedly used them in the course of his scientific work. At the University of Le Mans (ULM), he tackled with the solid-state chemistry and quickly became a fluorine specialist, which brought him, after several steps related to reaction mechanisms studies, to highlight the implication of an elementary building block, the hexamer Ga3P3O16F2, in the rational construction of new topologies at the origin of ULM porous materials. The concept of multi-scale chemistry, which he continued to develop at the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin, led him to design, with his young research group, the MIL (for Materials of the Institute Lavoisier) porous hybrid materials whose skeletons are composed of both organic and inorganic parts, allowing the size of the cages to be varied without loss of stability of the assemblies. The archetype was MIL 101 with unmatched adsorbent properties, produced by BASF on a ton scale: Gérard Férey designed the structures, synthetized them and found several original applications.

His scientific achievements had a considerable impact that brought him international recognition as exemplified by more than 600 papers (h 94), 14 international patents and over 100 invited plenary lectures in international symposia, among them the EuChemS Award Lecture given at ECC 6 in Sevilla. This recognition led him to the French Academy of Sciences, as well as to several foreign Academies. He received many national and international awards including the ENI Prize for the protection of the environment (2009), the Grand Prix of the Fondation de la Maison de la Chimie (2010), and – the ultimate French scientific recognition – the CNRS Gold Medal in 2010.