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Wilhelm Normann

  Wilhelm Normann (January 16, 1870, Petershagen - May 1, 1939, Chemnitz) (sometimes also spelled Norman) was a German chemist who introduced the hydrogenation of fats in 1901, creating what later became known as trans fats. This invention, protected by German patent 141,029 in 1902 had a profound influence on the production of margarine and so-called vegetable shortening. These products were thought for most of the twentieth century to be a healthy and economical alternative to butter.




His father, Julius Normann, was principal of the elementary school and Selekta in Petershagen. His mother's name was Luise Normann, (born Luise Siveke).

School education

Normann attended preschool starting 31 March 1877. At Easter of his sixth grade he moved to the Friedrichs Gymnasium in Herford. After his father applied for a teacher's job at the municipal secondary school in Kreuznach, Wilhelm changed to the royal secondary school in Kreuznach. He passed his graduation examination at the age of 18 and left school.

Early years

A few days after leaving school, he entered the Herford machine fat and oil factory Leprince & Siveke on 7 April 1888. The founder of that company was his uncle, Wilhelm Siveke.


After running the Herford company, located in the freeport of Hamburg, for two years, he started studying chemistry at the laboratory of Professor Carl Remigius Fresenius in Wiesbaden. In the meantime he was an unpaid employee in the brown coal industry in Zeitz for half a year. From April 1892 Normann continued his studies at the department of oil analytics in the Königlichen Mechanisch-technischen Versuchsanstalt (Royal Mechanical-Technical Research Institute) in Berlin-Charlottenburg under the supervision of Professor D. Holde. From 1895 - 1900 he studied chemistry under supervision of Prof. Claus and Prof. Willgerod and geology under supervision of Prof. Steinmann at the Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg. There he received his doctorate in 1900 with a work about "Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Reaktion zwischen unterchlorigsauren Salzen und primären aromatischen Aminen" (Contributions to the knowledge of the reactions of hypochlorite salts and primary aromatic amines).

Personal life

Normann married Martha Uflerbäumer[1] of Herford on 12 September 1916.

On January 1 1939 Normann retired. He did not enjoy his retirement for long. On the 1 May 1939 Wilhelm Normann died after an illness in the Küchwald hospital in Chemnitz. He was entombed on 5 May 1939 in the family grave on the old cemetery on Hermannstrasse in Herford.


In 1901 Normann was appointed to correspondent of the federal geological institute.

From 1901 - 1909 he was leading the laboratory and made his investigations of the fats and oils at the "Leprince & Siveke" company in Herford.

In 1901 Normann heard about Paul Sabatier publishing an article [2], in which Sabatier states that only with vaporizable organic compounds it is possible to bind the catalytic hydrogen to fluid tar oils. Thereupon Normann investigated for himself and could disprove Sabatier's opinion. He was able to transform liquid oleic acid into solid stearic acid by the use of catalytic hydrogenation with dispersed nickel. This was also the precursor of fat hardening.

On 27 February1901 Normann invented fat hardening.

On the 14 August 1902 the Kaiserlicht Patentamt (German patent office) granted the patent 141,029 to the applicant "Herforder Maschinenfett & Oelfabrik, Leprince & Siveke in Herford": "Verfahren zur Umwandlung ungesättigter Fettsäuren oder deren Glyceride in gesättigte Verbindungen". On January 21 1903 British patent nr. 1515 was granted to Dr. Wilhelm Normann: "Process for Converting Unsaturated Fatty Acids or their Glycerides into Saturated Compounds".

During the years 1905 to 1910 Normann built a fat hardening facility in the Herford company. At the same time the invention was extended to a large scale plant in Warrington, England at Joseph Crosfield & Sons, Limited.. It took only two years until the hardened fat could be successfully produced for the time in the plant in Warrington, commencing production in the autumn of 1909. The initial year's production was nearly 3000 tonnes. [3] [4]

For 1 January 1911 – 31 January1922: Normann was scientific director of Ölwerke Germania (Germania oil factory)in Emmerich upon Rhein, which was established by the Dutch Jürgens company.

From 1917 on, Normann built the fat hardening factory and also put it into operation in Antwerp for the margarine factory SAPA Societe anonyme des grasses, huiles et produits africaines, which operated in India, as technical director by order of the Belgian Colonial Society.

On 25 April1920 he filed for German patent 407180 Verfahren zur Herstellung von gemischten Glyceriden., approved 9 December1924 [5]

On 25 April1920 Dr Wilhelm Normann filed for German patent 407180, Verfahren zur Herstellung von gemischten Glyceriden., approved 9 December1924 [5].

On 26 June1920 the Firma Oelwerke Germania and Dr Wilhelm Normann filed for German patent 417215, Verfahren zur Umesterung von Fettsaurestern., approved 27 September 1925[5].

From 1924 - 1927 Normann was also consultant for fat hardening facilities for foreign companies.

On 30 October1926 Volkmar Haenig & Comp, Metallochemische Werk Rodlebe and Dr Wilhelm Normann filed for German patent 564894, Elektrisch beheizter Etagenroester , approved 24 November1932[5].

On May 141929 He applied for German patent 582266 Verfahren zur Darstellung von Estern, approved August 111933[5].


  • 8 June1922: Award of the Liebig-Denkmünze by the Verein Deutscher Chemiker.
  • February 1939: Application of the award of the honorary doctor of natural sciences (Dr. rer. nat. h. c.) by the Faculty of Natural Sciences and the senate of the University Münster in Westfalen.
  • 1939: Award of the honorary membership of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Fettforschung (DGF; German Society for Fat Research), today Deutsche Gesellschaft für Fettwissenschaft (German Society for Fat Science), Münster.

In commemoration of the inventor of fat hardening the DGF donated the Wilhelm Normann Medal on 15 May1940. Since 1940 it has been irregularly awarded.

Normann is also the eponym of the Wilhelm-Normann-Berufskolleg.


  1. ^ (picture, lower right)
  2. ^ Chemiker-Zeitung, 25, Nr. 13, S. 136 (1901)
  3. ^ Normann bio (in German)
  4. ^ Normann bio (in English)
  5. ^ a b c d e German Patents
  • This article was initially translated from this Wikipedia article Wilhelm_Normann, specifically from 09:38, 2 August 2007 (UTC) this version.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Wilhelm_Normann". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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