Biography Fritz Hofmann

Hofmann, who was born in Kölleda near Weimar on November 2, 1866, attended school in Klosterdonndorf and Schulpforta before taking up practical training as a pharmacist in an apothecary shop in Göttingen.  He later studied pharmaceutics in Berlin and then chemistry in Rostock.  There he earned his doctorate, “magna cum laude.”


Prior to joining Bayer in 1897, he taught for two years at the Technical University of Aachen.  At the age of 85, Hofmann gave a talk at his old school about his life and work researching rubber.  Here are a few short extracts from the lecture:


“As the head of various research laboratories, I was constantly on the lookout for promising areas of work for my staff.  Here [in the manufacture of synthetic rubber] I saw the opportunity to create something that was lacking in my own country and which, at the same time, would free it from having to import an expensive product from foreign countries that were naturally blessed with it….  In response to my written proposals… the Farbenfabriken company in Elberfeld granted me the initial sum of one million marks to be paid in ten annual installments of 100,000 marks each.  Well, if only it had stayed at that figure of one million.  Instead, the insatiable needs of research swallowed up that amount several times over....  So I dared it and was able to see the first results after two years.  Already in the summer and autumn of 1909, we were able to file an application for the basic patent.  The experts had to admit that Fritz Hofmann had really produced rubber.”


Hofmann was to receive a number of awards and distinctions for his scientific work, among them the Fischer Medal in Gold from the Society of German Chemists, an Honorary Plaque from the German Rubber Society and the gilded Buna Medal at the World Exhibition in Paris.  He died in Hanover in 1956 at the age of 90.  He lived to see much of the continuing rapid development made possible by his invention.

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