Vladimir Nikolaevich Ipatieff

Vladimir Nikolaevich Ipatieff

Vladimir Nikolaevich Ipatieff was born on 21 November 1867 in Moscow, Russia. His early career was that of a military man: in 1887 he graduated from the Mikhailovskoe artilleriiskoe uchilishche, and in 1892 from the Mikhailovskaia artilleriiskaia akademiia. But his interest in chemistry diverted him from a strictly military path. Teaching the subject at the Artillery Academy, he went on to get a doctorate from St. Petersburg University in 1907, while advancing in military rank to major general in 1910. From 1906 to 1916, he taught chemistry at the University as well, and was made a member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences in 1916. As a lieutenant general during the First World War, he served as Director of the Commission for Preparation of Explosives and Chairman of the Chemical Committee.

Following the revolution, he remained in the Soviet Union, where he founded the High Pressure Institute in 1927. But in 1931, while on a trip abroad, he decided not to return and came to the United States, where he taught at Northwestern University from 1931 to 1935. In 1939 he was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Ipatieff died in Chicago on 29 February 1952. Northwestern University dedicated a laboratory in his honor.

[A slightly different version about his move to the USA (from Professor Peter Stair of Northwestern Univeristy): Ipatieff had been a General under Tsar Nicholas II and Chairman of the Chemical Administration and winner of the Lenin Prize under the Soviets. Shortly after Ipatieff emigrated from the USSR to avoid the Stalin purges, he was approached by representatives of Universal Oil Products (UOP) who invited him to work in the USA in the dual capacity of Director of Chemical Research at UOP and Professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University. He worked together with Herman Pines to discover and develop the important processes of isomerization and alkylation with liquid acids based upon the reaction of paraffin molecules in petroleum reacting with an aqueous solution of sulfuric acid. In early 1940, at the beginning of World War II, the first alkylation plant came on stream in the US. The boost in aircraft fuel octane made possible by this plant played a significant role in the success of the British Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain.]

Ipatieff authored hundreds of articles on chemistry in a number of languages, as well as textbooks, such as Kolichestvennyi analiz, which he wrote while still a student (St. Petersburg, 1891); a scientific autobiography, Catalytic Reactions at High Pressures and Temperatures (New York, 1936); and personal memoirs, Zhizn’ odnogo khimika (New York, 1945), translated into English as The Life of a Chemist (Stanford, 1946). He also held several hundred patents, marking his most significant contributions to science: the formulation of high-octane gasoline, the “cracking” method now used to refine gas, and other discoveries relating to catalytic reactions (especially under high pressures and temperatures), and the synthesis of petroleum and its distillates.
 
Contributed by Hoover Institute and Peter Stair
From the Hoover Institution’s Archives: (http://www-hoover.stanford.edu/hila/ruscollection/ipat_b.html)