Eugene Houdry (1892-1962) was a French engineer who designed the first catalytic converter. Houdry became concerned about high smog levels after a report was published in Los Angeles that found the rising use of passenger cars was causing smog. Houdry immediately began working on a solution to the air pollution problem. Shortly after the report, he founded Oxy-Catalyst, a company that sought to develop a device to help curb the emissions of vehicles. Houdry developed the first catalytic converter in 1953, but the application was not useful because the lead in United States gasoline destroyed the catalyst in the converter. The catalytic converter would be put on hold until lead started to be discontinued as a fuel additive. Houdry died in 1962. He never saw how his invention would come to change the world.
Although the use of lead was not officially banned in passenger cars until 1996 by an amendment to the Clean Air Act, leaded gasoline began being phased out in 1975 when federal law required all new vehicles to be equipped with catalytic converters. A team of engineers, led by Carl D. Keith, re-tooled Eugene Houdrys catalytic converter for specific automobile use. This re-tooled converter was called a three-way catalytic converter and it was more efficient in screening automobile emissions.