The company traces its origins back to several preceding companies. One part is a spin-off from the precious metals refinery at the Frankfurt am Main mint: Aktiengesellschaft Deutsche Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt vormals Roessler, more commonly known as Degussa. Following its establishment in 1873, this company quickly developed into a large international corporation and over the years chemicals became more important than metallurgy. Even back then the company was already an innovation leader. For example, in 1901 Degussa successfully synthesized indigo. It also developed perborates and later percarbonates which were used as the basis for modern detergents such as Persil from 1907. Around 50 years ago the company bundled its research at a site in Hanau-Wolfgang near Frankfurt am Main. These activities have expanded steadily ever since and Wolfgang Industrial Park has remained Evonik's largest research base.
The chemical company Chemische Fabrik Th. Goldschmidt also has a long history. Originally founded in Berlin in 1847, it relocated to its present site in Essen in 1890. This company gained a worldwide reputation through an innovative recycling process for removing tin from tinplate and the thermite process for welding rail tracks. In the 1920s, the company developed its own surfactants, marking its entry into the organic specialty chemicals business.
From 1908 Bavaria-based SKW Trostberg AG developed from a producer of carbide and calcium cyanamide into a leading international specialty chemicals company. In 1999, Goldschmidt AG was integrated into the SKW Trostberg Group as the Performance Chemicals Division.
At the start of the 20th century Crefelder Seifenfabrik Stockhausen & Traiser produced the first true textile auxiliary, ricinoleic acid soap, at the site in Krefeld where Evonik now produces superabsorbents.
Similarly, Evonik’s chemicals site in Darmstadt can trace the origins of its present chemicals activities back to 1909 when Röhm & Haas oHG, a company established in 1907, moved from Esslingen to Darmstadt. Initially, this company produced auxiliaries for the leather industry and enzyme-based detergents. It achieved its real breakthrough in the 1930s thanks to the development of the transparent, multifunctional plastic PLEXIGLAS®.
International expansion began early on: Degussa was a pioneer in the USA, establishing factories at Niagara Falls and Perth Amboy in the late 19th century. In 1909, just two years after its establishment, Röhm & Haas set up a successful branch in Philadelphia (USA). By 1914 Goldschmidt had a global network of branches, including a presence in France, the UK, the USA and Australia.
Starting in 1938 Chemische Werke Hüls GmbH, subsequently Hüls AG, built up a site in Marl (Germany) to produce synthetic rubber (Buna rubber). After 1945 this site mainly produced plastics. In the 1990s this site became Marl Chemical Park, where Evonik’s largest site in Germany is now located.
In the 1980s, Hüls AG acquired Röhm GmbH and later Chemische Fabrik Stockhausen GmbH. In 1999, it merged with Degussa AG (as the company was called since 1980) to form Degussa-Hüls AG which subsequently merged with SKW Trostberg AG to form the “new” Düsseldorf-based Degussa AG.
The “new” Degussa AG, which brought together the competencies of its predecessor companies, subsequently started to shift its activities to specialty chemicals. Between 2001 and 2004 non-core operations with total sales of more than €6.5 billion were divested, including the phenolic chemicals business, dmc2, Degussa Dental, Viatris and PolymerLatex.
Between 2003 and 2006 the Essen-based RAG Group acquired Degussa AG, which became the Chemicals Business Area of Evonik Industries AG (formerly RAG Beteiligungs-AG).
In 2007, the RAG Group was split into two: RAG Aktiengesellschaft, Herne (Germany), which was responsible for the hard coal mining and processing operations, and Evonik Industries AG, Essen (Germany), an industrial corporation with a strong focus on specialty chemicals. The sole shareholder of both companies was RAG-Stiftung. The new structure took account of the specific business operations and prospects of the two companies.
Today, Evonik is one of the world's leading specialty chemicals companies.