Duisberg, Carl

(1861-1935)
   chemist and industrialist; inspired the in-dustrial combination known as IG Farben.* Born in Barmen, he completed a doctorate in chemistry before his twenty-first birthday. In 1883 he joined the faltering Bayer Dye Company (Farbenfabriken Bayer) in Elberfeld. His skill at inventing new dyes quickly reinvigorated company profits. But Duisberg had more than technical ability. Soon granted a partnership in the firm, he eventually married into the Bayer family. Although he was blessed with enormous energy, his organizational skill proved his foremost attribute. In 1886 he assumed re-sponsibility for scientific experimentation, the patenting of inventions, and con-trol of the patent process—all the while maintaining his duties as department manager and working engineer. Faced with the competitiveness of dye making, he created a pharmaceutical division and constructed a laboratory in which re-searchers worked together as a pure scientific community. In 1890 he assumed de facto control of a company that introduced heroin in 1898 and aspirin in 1899. In 1904, after visiting the United States, he was so inspired by John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil trust that he proposed a combination of German dye companies to simplify operations, elevate labor efficiency, and increase profits. While his proposal met with limited success (two blocs of dye makers emerged by 1907), it marked the first step in the twenty-year evolution of the chemical trust known as IG Farben. When in 1916 he restated the case for cooperation under the impact of World War I, the two prewar chemical blocs formed a loosely federated trust. Duisberg had focused during the war on meeting Germany's armament needs, including synthetic nitrates and poison gas. After the war he struggled to rees-tablish an industry damaged by inflation* and Allied occupation. Although he was displaced by Carl Bosch* of BASF as the most insistent advocate for the further consolidation of IG Farben, he remained a critical player in the negoti-ations leading to the firm's incorporation in December 1925; moreover, he was the first chairman of the firm's supervisory board (Aufsichtsrat).
   Duisberg's view of the Republic was summed up in his admonition to German executives to find their places within the regime, not against it. Although he was a monarchist and a nationalist, he believed that Germany's future, and that of IG Farben, rested on the restoration of unity and economic power. Elected head of the influential RdI in January 1925 (a post he retained until September 1931), he used the position to help reintegrate Germany into the world economy. He championed Gustav Stresemann's* fulfillment policy,* denounced the nar-row nationalism of Alfred Hugenberg,* and supported Heinrich Bruïning* in the face of escalating industrial animosity. Although he was repelled by the NSDAP, he remarked in 1933 that the role of the businessman was "to save what is savable."
   By assuming a role in public life, Duisberg proved that he could transfer his leadership gift from industry to other fields. His initiative was integral to the formation of the Society for German Science and to the creation of the Grant and Loan Society for German Students. So many interwar students were in-debted to him that he was widely known as Studentenvater. His commitment to German science prompted the award of honorary degrees from Dresden, Mu-nich, Berlin,* Bonn, Tuïbingen, Heidelberg, Cologne, and Marburg. When he died, a British scientist remarked, "Germany is deprived of one of the greatest and most valuable citizens she ever had" (Mann and Plummer).
   REFERENCES:Hayes, Industry and Ideology; Mann and Plummer, Aspirin Wars; NDB, vol. 4.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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