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History of the Institute

The institute was founded in 1912 in Mülheim an der Ruhr as the "Kaiser Wilhelm Institut für Kohlenforschung". It is thus one of the oldest institutes of the present Max Planck Society. The major achievement of the early years of coal research was undoubtedly the invention of the Fischer-Tropsch Process by Franz Fischer and his co-worker. Using catalysts, it allowed mineral coal to be transformed into transportation fuels, such as gasoline or Diesel oil.

However, after the appointment of Karl Ziegler as the new director of the institute in 1943, coal research became less important and the efforts were directed towards organometallic chemistry. Numerous important chemical discoveries, significant to date, followed. The polymerization of ethylene or propylene with Ziegler catalysts or the cyclooligomerization of 1,3-butadiene to carbocycles (Günther Wilke) were such milestones.

In 1949, the institute was renamed to "Max Planck Institut für Kohlenforschung" and has the status of a foundation of private law. Today, the scientific work of more than 300 employees is focused on the research of highly selective and energy saving conversion processes. Catalysis with all its aspects is in the center of our activities.

Timetable

1912
The Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft, representatives of the Rhenish-Westphalian Industries and the town of Mülheim an der Ruhr decide to create the Kaiser-Wilhelm- Institut für Kohlenforschung.
1913
Franz Fischer (Technical Universität Berlin) is appointed as the first Director of the Institute.
1914
Opening and inauguration of the Institute.
1917
The first volume of the "Gesammelte Abhandlungen zur Kenntnis der Kohle" is published.
1925
Franz Fischer und Hans Tropsch file a patent for the synthesis of petroleum at normal pressure ("Verfahren zur Gewinnung mehrgliedriger Paraffinkohlenwasserstoffe aus Kohlenoxyden und Wasserstoff auf katalytischem Wege", DRP 484337).
1925
Gründung der Studien- und Verwertungsgesellschaft mbH.
1926
Construction of a pilot plant to scale up the Fischer-Tropsch-Synthesis.
1939
The Institute becomes an independent Foundation.
1943
Karl Ziegler (University of Halle) succeeds Franz Fischer as Director.
1945
The Institute is occupied by US forces and is temporarily administered by the North German Coal Board.
1947
Herbert Koch becomes Scientific Member (Wissenschaftliches Mitglied).
1.12.1947
Franz Fischer dies in Munich after a long illness.
1949
Karl Ziegler and Hans-Georg Gellert discover the "Aufbaureaction" with aluminum alkyl compounds.
1949
The Institute is renamed the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung.
1952
The patent for a process to synthesize carboxylic acids from olefins and carbon dioxide is filed (DRP 942987, Herbert Koch, inventor).
1953
First patent application for the low-pressure polyethylene synthesis (DBP 973626, K. Ziegler, H. Breil, E. Holzkamp, H. Martin, inventors).
1954
The patent "Direct Synthesis of Trialkylaluminum Compounds" is filed (DBP 961537, K. Ziegler, H.-G. Gellert, inventors).
1954
The processes for preparing high-molecular weight polyethylene (DBP 1257430) and for preparing copolymers of α−olefins are patented (DBP 1268392, K. Ziegler, H. Martin, E. Holzkamp, H. Breil, inventors).
1954
The basic process for the production of primary alcohols used in biodegradable detergents is patented (DBP 1014088, K. Ziegler, inventor).
1955
The Studien- und Verwertungsgesellschaft mbH is renamed the Studiengesellschaft Kohle mbH.
1956
Patent application for the synthesis of 1,5,9-cyclododecatriene (DBP 1050333, G. Wilke, inventor).
1958
An independent department of radiation chemistry is set up under the supervision of Günther O. Schenck.
1959
Patent application for the catalytic di- and trimerization of 1,3-diolefins (DBP 1140569, G.Wilke, E. W. Müller, inventors).
1963
Günther Wilke is appointed as Scientific Member and becomes full professor at the Ruhr-University Bochum, then still under construction.
10.12.1963
The Nobel Prize for Chemistry is awarded to Karl Ziegler and Giulio Natta (Milan).
1964
Patent application for extraction with supercritical gases (DBP 1493190, Method for Separation of Mixtures, K. Zosel, inventor).
1967
Günther Wilke becomes Codirector of the Institute.
1967
The main laboratory building is completed.
1968
Oskar E. Polansky is appointed as Scientific Member.
1968
Karl Ziegler and his wife Maria create the Ziegler Fund to ensure the Institute financial independence.
1969
Günther Wilke succeeds Karl Ziegler as Director of the Institute.
1969
Roland Köster becomes Scientific Member of the Institute.
1970
The process for the decaffeination of green coffee beans is patented (DBP 2005293, K. Zosel, inventor).
1970
Karl Ziegler establishes the Ziegler Foundation.
1972
Reestablishment of a department of coal research.
11.08.1973
Karl Ziegler dies in Mülheim.
1973
Patent application for the electrochemical generation of ferrocene (DBP 2349541, W. Eisenbach, H. Lehmkuhl, G. Wilke, inventors).
1979
Patent application for hydrogen and energy storage using magnesium hydride (EP 0003564 B1, B. Bogdanovic, inventor).
1981
The Senate of the Max-Planck-Society establishes the department of radiation chemistry as an independent institution named the Max-Planck-Institut für Strahlenchemie.
1991
Manfred T. Reetz (University of Marburg) is appointed as Scientific Member and Codirector of the Institute.
1992
Roland Köster retires.
1993
Manfred T. Reetz succeeds Günther Wilke as Director of the Institute.
1995
Andreas Pfaltz (University of Basel) becomes Scientific Member and Codirector.
1998
Alois Fürstner and Ferdi Schüth are appointed as Scientific Members and Directors.
1998
Andreas Pfaltz returns to the University of Basel.
1999
Walter Thiel (University of Zürich) is appointed as Scientific Member and Director.
2002
The Ziegler Collection Foundation is founded.
2005
Benjamin List is appointed as Scientific Member and Director.
2010
Opening of the new lecture hall building
2014
Happy Birthday: The Max Planck Institut für Kohlenforschung celebrates its 100th birthday with a Centennial Ceremony and Scientific Symposium in Mülheim.

An overview of the Ziegler-era provides the brochure issued by Prof. Haenel on the occasion of awarding the title “Historical Landmarks of Chemistry” of the GDCh in 2008.

The research report includes a historical overview which supplements the chronological data given below.

The Ziegler Collection Foundation is home of many remarkable paintings of the Expressionism.