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catalyst (noun) a substance that makes a chemical reaction faster without itself being affected by the reaction; a person that can bring about a change, or helps a change.

Sometimes in chemical reactions, a substance is added to hasten the reaction, with the substance itself remaining unchanged in the process. Such a substance is called a catalyst. For example, in the production of oxygen, manganese dioxide is added to speed up the reaction, and manganese dioxide doesn't itself undergo any change. It is a catalyst. Also, a person who causes change or an event to happen is a catalyst. In that sense most social reformers are catalysts. Gandhi in India was a catalyst in that he brought about a total change in India's approach to freedom struggle by resorting to non-violence and non-cooperation with the British. In the US, Martin Luther King Jr., by non-violent resistance, acted as a catalyst in ending segregation.

  • Enzymes in human body are catalysts. They hasten up the chemical reactions in the human body and help the efficient functioning of the digestive system, liver functioning, etc..
  • The abolition of black slavery in the US was brought about by the positive and determined attitude of Abraham Lincoln. His was thus the role of a catalyst in the process.
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Last Modified : 11-May 2009
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