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British Industrial History

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Solvay is a Belgian chemical and pharmaceutical company. It was founded by Ernest Solvay to produce sodium carbonate by the Solvay process. Since then the company has diversified to three major sectors of activity: pharmaceuticals, chemicals and plastics.

1838 Ernest Solvay was born in Belgium[1]

1861 Ernest Solvay discovered a new process for manufacturing sodium carbonate using sea salt, ammonia and carbonic acid.

1863 Solvay filed his first patent and, with his brother Alfred, built the first plant near Brussels and founded the company Solvay & Cie

Beginning in 1870 until c.1880, Solvay embarked on rapid international expansion, building plants in England, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States.

1878 He voluntarily established a social security system and pensions for the workers of his company.

1879 Introduced the 8-hour workday

1900 the Solvay process represented 95% of the world soda production.

1913 Solvay introduced paid vacations to his employees, long before it was introduced by the most socially advances nations.

Ernest Solvay founded the Institute of Physiology in Brussels and supported many other universities.

The Group survived both World Wars, thanks to its family shareholder base and jealously guarded manufacturing secrets.

1922 Ernest Solvay died

By the early 1950s, Solvay diversified and resumed global expansion.

2007 The Group’s consolidated sales amounted to EUR 9.6 billion generated by its three activity sectors: Chemicals, Plastics and Pharmaceuticals.

The company has more than 400 units spread over 50 countries and it employs about 30,000 people, 2,650 of them in research.

2008 Solvay divested its Pharmaceuticals branch to focus on two areas: Chemicals and Plastics.

2011 Solvay in a friendly takeover acquired Rhodia, a French chemical company.

2013 the Group, now radically transformed, began a new chapter in its history.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Solvay Institutes [1]
  • [2] Company website
  • [3] Wikipedia
  • Trademarked. A History of Well-Known Brands - from Aertex to Wright's Coal Tar by David Newton. Pub: Sutton Publishing 2008 ISBN 978-0-7509-4590-5