Inventor Eugene Houdry was born in Domont, France, in April of 1892. The son of a wealthy structural steel manufacturer, Houdry was encouraged to learn about mechanical engineering from his youth. He majored in the subject, at the Ecole des Arts et Metiers in Paris.
Houdry invented a catalytic cracking process that could transform coal into gasoline. He also managed to catalytically crack low-grade crude oil. With this process, oil companies were able to double the yield of usable oil with each barrel of crude oil they processed.
After having been injured in World War I, Houdry managed to offer much more than simple service in World War II, with his invention of a single-step butane dehydrogenation process for producing synthetic rubber. He also assisted the French government by using his catalytic cracking process to produce high-octane aviation fuel.
When World War II ended, Houdry formed a new company he called Oxy-Catalyst which focused on improving the cleanliness of automobile exhaust. This led to the invention of the catalytic converter used in mufflers to reduce auto emissions.
The catalytic muffler he patented in 1962 was his final crowning achievement. His muffler makes a drastic reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and unburned hydrocarbons. Today, this invention comes standard on every vehicle made in the United States.