Lili Wachenheim

Lili Wachenheim (1893-1989): The first female chemist at BASF

After studying chemistry with a doctorate in Heidelberg and a research stay in Hanover, Lili Wachenheim became the first female chemist to work at BASF in 1918. But in the same year she left the company again after her marriage. All trace of her disappeared when she emigrated to the USA with her family in the 1930s.

Lili Wachenheim was born on April 23, 1893 in Mannheim. She studied chemistry at the University of Heidelberg and received her doctorate in 1916 with the thesis "On the decomposition weight of nitrosyl chloride". After working as an assistant to Max Bodenstein (1871-1942) at the Electrochemical Institute of the Technical University of Hanover, she was hired on January 2, 1918 as the first female chemist at BASF. She worked in the ammonia laboratory headed by Alwin Mittasch (1869-1953). Mittasch was a chemist of Sorbian origin who became known above all for his pioneering work on the development of catalysts for ammonia synthesis using the Haber-Bosch process.

Wachenheim's first research report is entitled "On the Effects of Nitrogen Dioxide on Water and Nitric Acid in Various Concentrations" and is dated March 11, 1918. Two further research reports followed. At the end of 1918, Wachenheim left the company because of her marriage to the chemist Heinrich Müller. The social consensus at the time was that working was not compatible with the role of wife and mother. The family emigrated to the USA in the 1930s. Unfortunately, there is no information available about the further career of Lili Wachenheim. Lili Wachenheim died on May 12, 1989 in the USA.

(Biography added by KJSchmitz with date of death and source)



Another article about Lilly Wachenheim appeared in Nachr. Chem. 70, July/August 2022, p. The author is Gisela Boeck, deputy chairwoman of the GDCh Division of History of Chemistry. To the contribution in the GDCh app.

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The texts published in this series do not claim to be scientific publications. Authors and other people involved are not experts in the history of science. The purpose of the series is to introduce the mostly unknown women chemists and to remind you of the well-known women chemists. We encourage readers who want to know more to study academic Literature on the women featured. In some cases there are detailed chemical-historical works.

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last modified: 15.07.2022 15:59 H from N/A