Haldor F. A. Topsøe
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Haldor Topsøe begins the interview with a discussion of his early life and family background. Born in Copenhagen, he grew up in Denmark, and was very involved in his father's Samfundshjælpen, which taught him the importance of collaboration between social classes. Topsøe studied at the Technical University, taking numerous courses in physics, chemistry, and chemical engineering. When he married in 1936, he became involved in his father-in-law's activities in teaching young people to run businesses. As a chemical engineer, and later, a businessman, Topsøe gained an interest in the relationship between economics and science. He discusses his firm's involvement in catalysis, how Haldor Topsøe A/S began, and the scientific research that had previously been done on catalysis. Topsøe further discusses the transfer of technology to India and the Third World, the impact of the Green Revolution on chemical industries, and his company's work in refining. He concludes with comments on the future of innovation.
|1936||Danish Technical University||MS||Chemical Engineering|
Aarhus Oliefabrik A/S
Haldor Topsøe A/S
G. A. Hagemann Medal
Honorary Doctor of Philosophy, Aarhus University
Honorary Doctor of Technology, Danish Technical University
C. F. Tietgen Medal
Queen's Medal for Meritorious Services
Royal Academy of Sciences Gold Medal
Honorary Doctor of Technology, Chalmers University
Odre National de la Légion d'Honneur
Francis New Memorial Medal
The Hoover Medal
Order of Intellectual Capacity, Morocco
Eminent Chemical Engineer Award, Delhi, India
The Chemists' Club's Winthrop-Sears Medal
Table of Contents
Growing up in Copenhagen. Father's involvement in Smafundshjælpen. Political beliefs. Denmark's political atmosphere. Importance of collaboration. Studying at Technical University. Interest in physics, chemistry, and chemical engineering. Marriage. Sharing father-in-law's involvement in training young people in business.
Interrelation of economics and science. Input/output analysis. Economists as advisors. Interest in catalysis.
Financial help from family and friends. Importance of optimism. Relationship between physics and chemistry. Niels Bohr and the Copenhagen School. Previous research on catalysis. New instrumental techniques.
Interest in the Third World. Connection to agricultural research. Influence of the Green Revolution. Giving technology to India.
Work in refining. Ralph Landau. Interest in hydrogenation. Constructing a refinery in Kuwait. Downsizing of large petrochemical firms. Fischer-Tropsch process.
Importance of research. Trouble with niche products. Corporate difficulties with shareholders. Emphasis on profits rather than research. Importance of producing good scientists and engineers.
About the Interviewer
David C. Brock is a senior research fellow with the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. As a historian of science and technology, he specializes in the history of semiconductor science, technology, and industry; the history of instrumentation; and oral history. Brock has studied the philosophy, sociology, and history of science at Brown University, the University of Edinburgh, and Princeton University.
In the policy arena Brock recently published Patterning the World: The Rise of Chemically Amplified Photoresists, a white-paper case study for the Center’s Studies in Materials Innovation. With Hyungsub Choi he is preparing an analysis of semiconductor technology roadmapping, having presented preliminary results at the 2009 meeting of the Industry Studies Association.
Leo Slater was the 2001–2002 John C. Haas Fellow and a senior research historian at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, where he also served as Director of Historical Services from 1997 to 2000. A former research chemist at the Schering-Plough Research Institute, he received his doctorate in History from Princeton University in 1997.