Arthur Imhausen, Chemist and entrepreneur

The Soap Manufacturer


Director of Märkische Seifenindustrie, which subsequently formed the basis of the Evonik site Witten.


* 1885, Gelsenkirchen

† 1951, Witten

Arthur Imhausen's career was from the outset hardly straightforward. After giving up his studies as a food chemist in Berlin, his father applied to the Gelsenkirchen police in 1907 for a permit to allow his son Arthur to work as a "druggist" with poisons; the district medical officer granted him permission to work with dangerous chemicals. In 1911 he founded the "Chemische Fabrik Buer" in partnership with Clemens Stallmeyer, however it was not a commercial success.

Only when Imhausen, again in partnership with Clemens Stallmeyer, took over the "Märkische Seifenindustrie GmbH" in Witten in 1912, did success gradually arrive. Arthur Imhausen worked in the Märkische Seifenindustrie as the technical director of soap production. He was as well responsible for the company establishing new business areas. During the First World War it produced the delayed explosives dinitrobenzine and hexanitrotriphenylphosphate, enabling it to avoid closure. In the 1920s soap production was expanded, and the brand name "Warta" became famous throughout Germany.

Imhausen's great breakthrough however only came in 1935 after 20 years of research, in the form of a marketable, commercial process for synthesizing fatty acids from paraffin sludge, which is obtained during benzene synthesis using the Fischer-Tropsch process. With these synthetic fatty acids, soaps could, as it were, be produced from coal. Development continued during the Second World War, leading to synthetic margarine production. By strongly supporting the self-sufficiency policy of the National Socialists, Arthur Imhausen, who had a Jewish mother, became one of the leading figures of his time in commerce and industry. In 1937 he finally founded, in partnership with detergent manufacturer Henkel, the Deutsche Fettsäure Werke GmbH, for which IG Farbenindustrie AG also provided patents in this field.

From May 1945 to April 1946 Imhausen was the first post-war president of Bochum's Chamber of Trade and Industry. In 1952 the Münzstrasse in Witten, leading to the Märkische Seifenindustrie oHG, was renamed "Arthur-Imhausen-Strasse". Socially, Imhausen also played a prominent role among fat-chemists. In 1923 he became a founding member of the Kolloid-Gesellschaft and was appointed to its executive board. He was also an executive board member of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Fettforschung. After changing hands several times, the Märkische Seifenindustrie, built up by Arthur Imhausen, was later acquired by Hüls AG - now the Witten site of Evonik Industries.

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