Frank, Adolph, 1834-1916

Alternative names
Birth 1834-01-29
Death 1916-05-30

Biographical notes:

Frank was born on January 20, 1834. In the late 1890s Frank and Nikodem Caro patented the Frank-Caro Process for creating calcium cyanamide from carbon. Frank is considered the father of the German potash industry. He died on May 30, 1916 in Berlin, Germany.

From the description of Adolph Frank Notebook. (Chemical Heritage Foundation). WorldCat record id: 48805415

Adolf Frank (1834-1916) was one of the leading chemists in nineteenth-century Germany. Born in 1834 in Kloette, he began his career as an apothecary's apprentice and received his license in 1857; afterwards he studied chemistry at the University of Berlin. He then obtained a position as a chemist with a beet-sugar refinery and used the results of his work there as a basis for his dissertation, which was accepted at the University of Goettingen in 1872.

In the late 1860s, Frank played a leading role in the development of Strassfurt potash deposits and their application as an agricultural fertilizer. He remained interested in the problems of German agriculture, especially its chemical aspects, for the rest of his life. After working for some years as a chemist with Charlottenburg Glaswerke, Frank resigned in 1885 to go into business for himself as an independent chemical consultant. His expertise covered many fields, with a focus on the cellulose industry in Germany and abroad.

Together with his co-worker Nicodem Caro, Frank invented a process for the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen in 1895. This process, related to modern cyanamid manufacture, attracted interest in industrial circles, and with the backing of Deutsche Bank, Siemens & Halske, and Deutsche Gold und Silber Scheideanstalt the Cyanid Gesellschaft was founded in 1899 to exploit the process. At first the company was not commercially successful. It was only during and after World War I that the process was sufficiently refined to become profitable.

For many years Frank was on the Board of Directors of the Charlottenburg Municipal Gas Works and of the Vereinigte Chemische Werke . He received many awards, including an honorary professorship and the title of Geheimer Regierungsrat . Although eighty years old at the outbreak of World War I, he threw himself into war work, and this occupied most of his attention until his death in 1916.

Frank's son Albert (1872-1965) was also a chemist. He directed a pilot plant for the Cyanid Gesellschaft and did consulting work. In the early 1920s he became director of the Bayrische Stickstoff Werke . Albert Frank retained this position until his emigration to the USA in 1938. In America, Frank obtained a post with American Cyanamid for whom he had previously acted as German consultant. Albert Frank died in New York City in 1965.

From the guide to the Adolf Frank Collection, 1857-1964, (Leo Baeck Institute)


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Ark ID:


  • Paper industry--Germany--History
  • Chemical industry--History
  • Fertilizer
  • Chemistry--Research
  • Jews, German
  • Industrial chemists
  • World War, 1914-1918
  • Chemists
  • Archival materials
  • Nitrogen fixation
  • Staedtischen Gasanstalt, Charlottenburg
  • Ammonia


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