He was the son of the Russian economist Paul Haensel (1878-1949) and grew up in Moscow, where his father was a professor. In 1930 he came with his father to the United States and studied at Northwestern University, where his father was a professor, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Chemical Engineering with a Master 's degree 1937. Afterwards he worked for Universal Oil Products (UOP ) and his PhD at the same time in 1941 at Northwestern University in chemistry. After the Second World War, he assessed behalf of the government of the German Research in Synthetic gasoline. In 1969 he became vice-president and research director at UOP and 1972 to 1979 he was vice president for science and there Technik.1980 he became a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
He is the inventor of the Platform process in petroleum refining ( Platinum catalytic process for reforming petroleum hydrocarbons into gasoline ), a method of Catalytic Reforming. His main finding was that bound only in relatively small amounts could use on surfaces the expensive platinum to increase the octane number of gasoline. Its surface catalysts also found application in the chemical industry. At UOP, he led the development of catalytic converters.
He held more than 145 U.S. patents.
In 1968 he received the National Medal of Science in 1981 and the first National Academy of Sciences Award for Chemistry in Service to Society. In 1952 he was awarded the ACS in Erdölchemie, he received the Perkin Medal and the 1997 Charles Stark Draper Prize. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. In 1965 he received the EV Murphree Award in Industrial and Engineering Chemistry.