A History of the International Chemical Industry

By Fred Aftalion; Otto Theodor Benfey | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
Developments During the Period Spanning the Two World Wars (1914-1945)

The Situation In 1914

During the period from 1850 to 1914, chemistry had made giant strides both in scientific and in technological areas, taking advantage of theprogress made in other fields even when it was not itself the driving force. Butwhile, on the whole, political frontiers were irrelevant to such progress, thedifferent industrialized countries had not advanced at the same rate. On the eveof World War I, the situation could hardly fail to reflect localcharacteristics and the genius peculiar to each people.


Germany's UndisputedSuperiority

From the time Liebig had set theball rolling, scientific education in German universities, with their strong focus on organic chemistry, and in Institutes of Technology, with their stress on applied chemistry, hadprovided German chemists and those foreigners allowed to take advantage of it withgood solid training.

The number of Germans awarded the Nobel Prize as soonas it was established is proof enough of the quality of German scientifictraining: in chemistry, Emil Fischer( 1902), Adolf vonBaeyer ( 1905), Eduard Büchner( 1907), Otto Wallach( 1909), RichardWillstätter ( 1915), Fritz Haber( 1918); in medicine and physiology, Emil vonBehring ( 1901), Robert Koch( 1905), and Paul Ehrlich ( 1908).

Close ties between university and industry wereanother noteworthy feature of German chemistry. Thus scientists and businessmen joinedunder the Emperor's aegis to set up in Berlin, in 1911, the Kaiser WilhelmGesellschaft, which was soon funding seven research institutes headed by famousscientists such as Haber and Willstätter.

-102-

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