June 3, 2021: It is with sadness we record that Kathryn Bullock, one of the giants of the electrochemistry of lead and batteries in general, passed away on May 17.
Her many achievements include becoming the first ever female president of the Electrochemical Society in 1996 and also winner that year of the lead battery industry’s highest accolade, the Gaston Planté Medal Award.
The award recognized Kathryn’s contribution to the lead battery world for her discoveries of:
- the self-discharge processes in VRLA batteries and their impact on shelf life and discharge capacity;
- the structure and properties of the corrosion layer on Pb, Pb-Sr and Pb-Sb electrodes;
- how the corrosion layer of the positive plate on a solid-state Pb/PbO/PbO2 element with an emf (electromotive force) of 0.8V can be formed and its effect on the polarization of the positive plate;
- the beneficial influence of H3PO4 on the positive plate of lead acid batteries;
- the influence of antimony on the negative plate;
- how tridimensional E-pH-pS diagrams of Pb/H2SO4/ H2O could show thermodynamic values for open-circuit voltages, acid activities and lead sulfate solubilities;
- the recombination efficiency of the oxygen cycle in VRLA batteries;
- new conductive materials and processes to enhance lead battery formation;
- the possibility of perovskite coating of the lead current collectors in positive plates to reduce corrosion.
She was the author and co-author of more than 60 scientific papers, chapters and books and has 11 US patents in battery, fuel cell and capacitor technology.
She was also a well-known speaker at international conferences and a leading figure in the late 1980s and 1990s as part of the general movement within the battery industry to share technical expertise outside corporate walls.
She was also fun to be with. Battery veteran Gene Valeriote recalls: “Kathy was ebullient, generous and an electrochemical genius. I considered her a friend as well as a colleague.”
David Rand, also a Gaston Planté award winner, recalls how they both came out of the gala dinner of the Electrochemical Society in New Orleans singing songs from Oklahoma and dancing down a crowded pathway.
Kathryn was also a committed Christian and passionately believed that science and faith could be reconciled. She married Ken in 1967, and he later became an episcopal minister.
She was known to a wide international circle of people and a memorial service and internment of her ashes will be held when travel restrictions due to Covid are lifted.