German Chemistry Giant Bayer is 150 years old.
Having stepped into the industrial world with a small workshop near the city of Wuppertal, Bayer is now a giant with 110 employees and annual sales of over 40 billion Euros.
Chancellor Angela Merkel was among the distinguished guests who attended the 150th anniversary of the Bayer Corporation. While praising Bayer, who introduced German chemistry to the whole world, Merkel said:
“Bayer is one of Germany's foremost representatives. Bayer is considered the symbol of Germany, the home of creativity and advanced technology.”
In her anniversary speech, Bayer board chairman Marjin Dekkers looked to the future and expressed what the most challenging test is before them: “Constantly discovering new things, trying new inventions, helping patients get better, preventing food crises and saving energy… 110 Bayerians do this every day. He works with enthusiasm to reach the goal.”
It started with the paint factory
On August 1, 1863, merchant Friedrich Bayer, together with his partner, cloth dyer Johann Weskkott, opened a small dyestuff in the town of Barmen in Wuppertal. His business was going well. Among his most important customers were the armed forces, who had their uniforms painted. In order to raise capital, the business was converted into a joint stock company in 1883. In order to win the competition in dyeing, young staff who graduated from chemistry, one of the new branches of education, were recruited.
Professor Werner Plumpe, an economic historian and Bayer expert, states that Bayer's golden age began with the increase of legal certainty: “The emergence of patent law has increased the importance of chemists. Because in order to obtain a patent in Germany, it was necessary to prove that the developed technique was really new. For this, knowledgeable chemists were needed. Thanks to the Master Specialist chemists, it was also easier to overcome patent disputes with rival companies.”
Bayer started to produce drugs as well as synthetic dyes over time. It was being investigated how the leftover materials from the paint manufacture could be used, and the substances obtained from these wastes could be used to produce preparations that cured diseases or alleviated their ailments. The pain reliever Aspirin, patented on March 6, 1899, was also discovered thanks to these experiments. prof. “Aspirin was found thanks to classical processing of Salicylic Acid, an intermediate and surplus from paint manufacture,” says Plumpe.
Bayer bought the small chemical business near Cologne in 1895, and in 1912 transferred the company headquarters to Leverkusen, on the Rhine, where it is today.
Even before the First World War, Bayer was among the global actors and operated factories in various European countries, Brazil, Argentina, China, Japan and the USA. In those years, ten thousand people were working at Bayer.
Bayer lost its independence after the first major war that cut through the legend of success. In 1925 it merged with other major German chemical companies under the common interests group IG Farben.
After the National Socialists came to power in 1933, the profit ambition of capitalist companies made Bayer a puppet of politics. Synthetic gasoline and artificial rubber played an important role in Hitler's armament program. Cyclone B gas, in which millions were killed, was produced by IG Farben. Until 1944, four thousand slave workers were employed at Bayer's Leverkusen facilities. prof. Plumpe explains: “The company was using forced labor. The most dramatic developments have been at the IG Farben facilities in Auschwitz. This factory was established under the pressure of the National Socialists and the company management did not see any harm in employing those brought from the prison camps. The limits of conscience to say, 'So far, yes, but I can't do more', disappeared.”
After the Second World War, IG Farben was dissolved, and those responsible were tried in the Nuremberg court.
Re-established in 1951, Bayer continued to write its history of success from where it left off.
The blood pressure drug Lipobay opened a business for Bayer in the USA. The death of so many high blood pressure patients using this drug shook Bayer so much that it was even considered at one time that the company would stop producing the drug.
But the opposite happened and pharmaceutical production became Bayer's most important branch. The share of drug sales in the total turnover reached up to fifty percent. Increasing its market share in seed production with pesticides, Bayer also produces high-quality synthetic materials for various industries.
Like ThyssenKrupp, Siemens, Daimler and BASF, Bayer has held its place among Germany's traditional industrial companies for 150 years.
📩 04/08/2013 15:00