Value through Innovation08 February 2016

1885 – 1948: Innovative beginnings

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Albert Boehringer (1861 – 1939) was the grandson of Christian Friedrich Boehringer (1791 – 1867) who started a family company with his partner Christian Gotthold Engelmann (1787 – 1841) in 1817 in Stuttgart.

In 1885, Albert Boehringer purchased a small tartar factory in the Rhine-Hessian village of Nieder-Ingelheim. On 31 July, his company was included in the commercial register as “Albert Böhringer, chem. Fabrik vom 1. Aug. 1885 ab”. This laid the foundation for the present-day company Boehringer Ingelheim. He initially employed 28 people to manufacture tartaric acid salts used by pharmacies and dyeing works. Demand for this product surged in the first few years as fizzy lemonade and baking powder become popular.

In 1893, Boehringer made the ground-breaking discovery that lactic acid can be produced in mass quantities by means of bacteria, a discovery that saw the company pioneer large-scale "biotech" production. This new process, combined with the high demand for lactic acid in the dyeing, leather, textile and food industry, saw the company become the leading manufacturer of this agent.
By the time of Albert Boehringer’s death in 1939, the company employed 1,500 people. His two sons Albert jr. and Ernst Boehringer as well as his son-in-law Julius Liebrecht took over the family company, having served on the company's Board of Directors since the 1920s.

Research and development continued during the Second World War, although the production of organic acids (tartaric acid, lactic acid, citric acid) was temporarily suspended. A number of new agents were introduced during and after the war.

Milestones during this period