Ullmann’s Encyclopedia Celebrates 100 Years

Image From the workings of the automated logwood chipper to predicting the future importance of oil shale, the 1914 First Edition of Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry set out to provide industrial chemists with the latest scientific research and practice. One hundred years on and now in its Seventh Edition, this now global reference work reveals just how far we have come.

For industrial chemists across the globe, Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry has become a name synonymous with reliability, comprehensiveness and innovation. Starting out as a twelve-volume set available only in the German language, this leading global resource now consists of 40 volumes incorporating more than 30,000 pages. It draws on the knowledge of more than 3,000 authors from around the world, many of them from countries that did not even exist 100 years ago. Ullmann’s has truly come a long way since its conception in 1914.

Compiled by Professor Ullmann of Berlin University of Technology shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, and first published by the German publishing house Urban and Schwarzenberg, Ullmann’s quickly became the standard reference work in industrial chemistry. Translated into English by its new owner, Verlag Chemie (VCH) in the mid 1980’s, it went on to become the first Wiley-VCH major reference work to be made available via the Internet, now its primary home. Pioneering from the outset, the Ullmann’s will be among the first to use the newly developed Smart Article technology, allowing substances to be found, compared, and placed in relation to one another based on their chemical structure alone.

Aside from the vast amount of information available, what makes Ullmann’s Encyclopedia even more special is the way that the knowledge from earlier days is conserved alongside latest processes shaped by biotechnology and nanotechnology. Its breadth and depth of technical information have proven to be invaluable for plant operators and patent lawyers alike. Barbara Elvers, the current editor-in-chief, recalls one particular telling episode: “My most memorable experience as editor for Ullmann’s was a confession by a chemical engineer from a large German chemical company who told me that he had to build a new coal liquefaction plant with only the help of an old technician who used to work in such a plant. He consulted the 3rd edition of Ullmann’s, constructed the plant, and it worked from the start. What more does one have to say about Ullmann’s?”

ImageFor one hundred years, Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry has proved an indispensable goldmine for anyone working in or studying industrial chemistry. One can only speculate what it will look like in a hundred more…

Found out more about 100 Years of Ullmann's: 1914 to 2014

Read Fritz Ullmann’s Preface to the first edition

New: Ullmann’s free education site, Ullmann's Academy, makes “hidden gems” freely available.  About half of the current Ullmann’s Academy articles deal with chemical engineering topics, for example, process monitoring, process intensification, and miniaturization. In addition, there are articles on patents, cost estimation, life cycle assessment, risk assessment, and similar general issues that one encounters in the development and manufacture of chemical and pharmaceutical products. New topics will be added twice a year, so the new site has the potential to develop into a comprehensive collection for teaching and learning, or for simply refreshing your knowledge.

Snapshots from the first edition (1914 – 1923)

1. Batteries of chlor-alkali electrolysis cells for the production of hypochlorite bleach


2. Mobile hydrogen generator for use by the military


See more examples of Chemical Technology in the 1910s on ChemistryViews

Frank Weinreich, Publisher, Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry