Dr. Otto Röhm
Researcher and inventor of PLEXIGLAS®
Otto Karl Julius Röhm was born in Öhringen, Württemberg, on March 14, 1876. After finishing school, he began an apprenticeship as a pharmacist’s assistant in 1891. Röhm successfully qualified as a pharmacist in 1899. Being a licensed pharmacist enabled him to study chemistry at the University of Tübingen. The doctoral thesis on polymerization products of acrylic acid that he wrote in 1901 set the course for his future endeavors.
From pharmacist’s assistant to chemist
Röhm initially turned his attention to tanning. He was the first chemist to recognize the effectiveness of pancreatic enzymes from animals in the tanning of hides. Subsequently, he developed a new bating process for the leather industry that revolutionized the techniques used in this field. This success prompted him to be the founder of the general partnership Röhm & Haas together with businessman Otto Haas in 1907.
Research into enzymes also sparked further developments, including laundry detergents, cosmetics, products for the textile industry, and pharmaceutical formulations for treating wounds and promoting digestion. It wasn't long before enzymes were also being used in the production of baked goods and fruit juices.
In 1912, when the established business was thriving, Otto Röhm devoted himself to plastics research with plenty of grit and determination. He visited his laboratories and factories daily to check on the state of research and approached new things with impartiality and an open mind. “I don't believe anything I haven’t tried myself,” was a favorite assertion of his.
Gold medal at the World’s Fair in Paris
Successes in the development of acrylates led Otto Röhm to methacrylates at the end of the 1920s. His research team quickly succeeded in the controlled polymerization of methacrylate between conventional glass sheets, to produce the hard, transparent material, polymethyl methacrylate. The thin acrylic sheets, which Röhm registered under the PLEXIGLAS® trademark in 1933, were the result of this. The material won the Grand Prix and a gold medal at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris.
„I don't believe anything I haven’t tried myself.“
Röhm’s aim was to expand the range of applications for PLEXIGLAS®, and the sheets were soon joined by the first granulates, known today as PLEXIGLAS® molding compounds. These were used to make molded parts and products for dental prostheses as well as products for the automotive, coatings and textile industry. The customer and market-oriented portfolio of products has been consistently evolving and expanding since the 1950s.
Otto Röhm became an honorary member of the Technical University of Darmstadt in 1922. He is named as an inventor or co-inventor in over 70 patents. The chemist died in 1939. Röhm GmbH, founded in 2019, continues his legacy and just like Otto Röhm, strives to be “traditionally innovative”.
PLEXIGLAS® is a registered trademark of Röhm GmbH. Röhm GmbH and its affiliates are a worldwide manufacturer of PMMA products sold under the PLEXIGLAS® trademark on the European, Asian, African and Australian continents and under the ACRYLITE® trademark in the Americas.