Introduction

N. Coupain, E. Homburg, K. Bertrams

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic

Abstract

In his authoritative history on The Chemical Industry 1900-1930, the economic
historian L. F. Haber summed up the role of the Solvay company:
"Solvay’s own enterprises were relatively small, but their interests and connections
within Belgium as well as outside were extensive." He continued: "A
comprehensive history of Solvay is badly needed and would fill a major gap in
our knowledge of the development of the European chemical industry."1 This
book fills that gap.
Solvay and its history stand out for several reasons. During most of its 150
years of existence Solvay remained one of the leaders in its fields, but, more
interesting, it also was one of the earliest multinational, or "polynational,"2
groups, as well as being a family-controlled firm up to the present time. These
two features taken together make the company unique in the chemical industry,
and perhaps even among businesses more generally.Moreover, the influence of
the Solvay family - as well as the company - extends far beyond the realm of
business. Solvay has lent its name to a number of initiatives in the field of science
and education, particularly to the famous international conferences on physics
and chemistry that have been organized since 1911. In its home country Solvay
is an icon, being one of the last independent crown jewels from when Belgium
was the second most industrialized country in the world. The large number
of institutes, schools, and streets named after Solvay in Belgium illustrates the
enduring impact of Solvay’s legacy to that small nation. Paradoxically, the
resilient tradition of secrecy that lay at the core of the company’s technological
success has long hindered a better understanding of its multiple lives. The
present book aims to end that obscurity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSolvay: History of a Multinational Family Firm
EditorsK. Bertrams, N. Coupain, E. Homburg
Place of PublicationCambridge, New York
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages1-5
Number of pages646
ISBN (Print)9781107024809
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013

Cite this

Coupain, N., Homburg, E., & Bertrams, K. (2013). Introduction. In K. Bertrams, N. Coupain, & E. Homburg (Eds.), Solvay: History of a Multinational Family Firm (pp. 1-5). Cambridge University Press.