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Ipatieff, Vladimir N. (Vladimir Nikolaevich), 1867-1952

 Person

Dates

  • Existence: 1867 - 1952

Chemist Vladimir Nikolaevitch Ipatieff was born in Moscow on November 21, 1867 (according to the modern calendar; by the Julian calendar in use in Russia at the time of his birth, the date was November 9). At the outbreak of World War I, Ipatieff became chairman of the Czarist regime's Chemical Committee, and raised the country's explosives production from 60 to 3300 tons per month. In 1931, Ipatieff accepted invitations to head the research staff of the Universal Oil Products Company in Riverside, Illinois, and to assume an appointment as Lecturer in Chemistry at Northwestern University.

The son of a wealthy and prominent family, he was intended for a military career, and was graduated in 1884 from the Third Moscow Military Gymnasium, where he first discovered an interest in chemistry. He continued his chemical studies at Alexander Military School, from which he was graduated in 1887 with a commission as a lieutenant in the Russian army. During the next two years he served with an artillery brigade stationed near Moscow, while pursuing his scientific study independently; in 1889 he was admitted by competitive examination to the Mikhail Artillery Academy, from which he had been excluded in 1884 on grounds of inferior grades. In 1892 he was graduated from the Academy and was immediately appointed to its teaching staff as instructor of chemistry. In the same year, he published the first of some 350 scientific papers.

In 1896, Ipatieff studied in Munich under Adolph von Baeyer; in 1898 he was promoted to the rank of professor. In 1907, he presented a dissertation on “Catalytic Reactions Under High Pressure and Temperature” to the University of St. Petersburg, and was awarded the degree of Doctor of Chemistry. The subject of his dissertation had been the main focus of Ipatieff's research since 1900, and would continue to be for the rest of his career.

At the outbreak of World War I, Ipatieff was installed as chairman of the Czarist regime's Chemical Committee, and in short order raised the country's explosives production from 60 to 3300 tons per month. Ipatieff continued his government service under Lenin after the October Revlution of 1917, while resuming his own research, and was appointed to the presidium of the Supreme Council of National Economy in 1921. After Lenin's death in 1924, conditions for Soviet scientists and other intellectuals began to deteriorate; in 1927 Ipatieff was removed from the Supreme Council, and in 1930 he was secretly informed by a friend that he was about to be arrested in a purge which had already touched many of his friends and colleagues. In June of that year he was sent with his wife as a Russian representative to the Twelfth International Power Conference in Berlin, and he never returned to Russia.

In 1931, at the age of 63, Ipatieff accepted invitations to head the research staff of the Universal Oil Products Company in Riverside, Illinois, and to assume an appointment as Lecturer in Chemistry at Northwestern University. He taught for 11 years at Northwestern, and was awarded emeritus status in 1945; he continued to direct the research program at Universal, and the work of the University's High Pressure and Catalytic Laboratory (eventually named in his honor) until shortly before his death in 1952. His research in America led to the development of an economically feasible method of manufacturing high-octane aviation fuel, credited with giving a crucial edge to Allied fighter planes in World War II.

Among Ipatieff's numerous awards and honors were his appointment as Commander of the French Legion of Honor (1916); the Berthelot Medal of the French Society of Industrial Chemistry (1928); the Willard Gibbs Medal of the American Chemical Society (1940); and the rank of Chevalier of the Cross of Lorraine and Companion of the Resistance (1952). Ipatieff was also the only person elected to both the Russian and United States National Academies of Sciences. He was elected to the Russian Academy in 1916, expelled in 1937, and posthumously reinstated in 1965; he was elected to the United States Academy in 1939. He held honorary doctor's degrees from the Universities of Munich (1928) and Strasbourg (1929), as well as Northwestern (1938).

In addition to some 350 scientific papers, Ipatieff was the author of several widely used Russian chemistry tests, and of two books published after his immigration to the United States, Catalytic Reactions at High Temperature and Pressure (1936) and The Life of a Chemist (1946). In 1939, he donated to Northwestern the funds to establish the laboratory which now bears his name; in the same year he endowed the Ipatieff Prize, conferred every three years by the American Chemical Society.

Ipatieff was married in 1892 to Varvara (otherwise Barbara or Barbe) Ermakova; the couple had three sons and one daughter. Ipatieff died at his Chicago home on November 29, 1952, at the age of 85.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Vladimir N. Ipatieff (1867-1952) Papers

 Collection
Identifier: 11/3/8/2
Abstract Russian chemist Vladimir Ipatieff's Papers fill twelve boxes, span the period 1867-1952, and are arranged in five major categories: personal correspondence; publications; diaries; miscellaneous manuscripts; and personal records and memorabilia. Two folders of biographical material (mainly clippings and articles about Ipatieff) precede the main body of records, while two boxes of additions follow it.

Herman Pines (1902-1996) Papers

 Collection
Identifier: 11/3/8/4
Abstract Correspondence, teaching files, speeches, legal documents, teaching manuals, technical drawings, lecture and class notes, drafts and published copies of essays of Herman Pines, Research Chemist and Coordinator of Exploratory Research at Universal Oil Products (UOP) in Chicago part-time lecturer, Assistant Research Professor, and Associate Professor of Chemistry in the Chemistry Department at Northwestern University.