Otto Roelen, Pioneer in Industrial Homogeneous Catalysis


  • Dedicated to Wolfgang Hilger on the occasion of his 65th birthday


Otto Roelen discovered the oxo synthesis (hydroformylation) in 1938, and despite all the problems created by the war years he was able to explore successfully the fundamental aspects related to its application up to the point of building the first plant. At the same time he laid the groundwork for industrial utilization of homogeneous organometallic catalysts. Almost simultaneously, his contemporary, Walter Hieber, was investigating the basic chemistry of the same catalysts, but with no knowledge whatsoever of their potential application. Hydroformylation today constitutes one of the most important industrial examples of a homogeneous catalytic process.

For corrigendum see DOI:10.1002/anie.199423481