Karl Goldschmidt, Entrepreneur and chemist
The Social Politician
Co-owner and director of Chemische Fabrik Th. Goldschmidt and Th. Goldschmidt AG.
* 1857, Berlin
† 1926, Seeheim/Bergstraße
The name Karl Goldschmidt is primarily associated with the rise of the relatively insignificant Chemische Fabrik Th. Goldschmidt into the world-famous and renowned Th. Goldschmidt AG. On the death of his father in 1875, Karl, still a minor, decided initially to study chemistry, while the company remained in the trusteeship of his brother-in-law. It was not until 1882 that Karl Goldschmidt, having just gained his doctorate in chemistry, took over management of the company, remaining in office for some 40 years.
He pushed ahead determinedly with plans to expand the factory, his particular interest lying in the development and improvement of a commercially and technically mature method of detinning tin plate waste. In partnership with chemist Dr. Josef Weber he was responsible for pioneering developments in this field, including the introduction of chlorine detinning in 1905, on the basis of which Goldschmidt became a small but fine international company.
However, Karl Goldschmidt saw himself more as an entrepreneur and, in particular, as a socially-minded patriarch. Numerous social innovations resulted from his initiatives, including the creation of a pension and company health insurance fund, the construction of a holiday home for employees, and progressive vacation arrangements. In return he expected employees to steer clear of trade union activities and social democracy.
In agreement with his brother Hans Goldschmidt, who joined the management in 1888, Karl Goldschmidt took the necessary radical steps to enlarge the company. This included its transfer from Berlin to Essen in 1889/1990 (to the present Evonik site in Essen/Goldschmidtstrasse) and the conversion of Chemische Fabrik into a joint stock company in 1911. Things took a turn for the worse however in 1916. The First World War and its repercussions took their toll on Th. Goldschmidt AG, and a rift was created between the brothers Karl and Hans, which was never healed. At the end of 1922, Karl Goldschmidt finally handed over management of the company to his oldest son Theo. He himself moved back to his retirement home in Seeheim, where he died in 1926.