A tradition of leadership and responsibility since 1863.
The story of the Solvay group began in 1861, when Ernest Solvay discovered the key to the «industrial manufacture of soda ash using sea salt, ammoniac and carbonic acid».
In 1863, Ernest Solvay patented a revolutionary ammonia-soda process for producing sodium carbonate which is still widely used today for glass, washing powder and flue gas cleaning.
The first soda factory started operating in Couillet, Belgium in 1865.
From 1870 to 1880, Solvay promoted the global expansion of the company. Factories were set up in Belgium, France, England, Germany, Russia and the United States.
Today, Solvay is an international industrial Group active in chemistry, with three sectors of activity: Chemicals and Plastics and Rhodia. The latter was acquired in September 2011.
Ernest Solvay was born in 1838, in Rebecq-Rognon in Belgium.
He believed deeply in the positive role of science and industry played in society, establishing a first-of-its-kind pension for Solvay workers in 1878, an 8-hour workday in 1897, and paid vacations in 1913, long before it became accepted practice in the rest of western societies.
He founded several scientific, philanthropic, and charitable foundations, including the Institutes of Physics (1895) and of Sociology (1901), as well as the prestigious School of Business (1903) in Brussels which still bears his name.
His overriding passion for science was personified in 1911 when he established the Council of Physics attracting the most of the prominent physicists and chemists of the time.
Participants included Marie Skłodowska-Curie, Albert Einstein, Max Planck, Ernest Rutherford, Hendrik Lorentz, Henri Poincaré, Martin Knudsen, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes and the Duke Louis de Broglie.
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The biennale council still meets to this day, gathering some of the most brilliant scientific minds in the world. In October 2011, the Physics council will celebrate its 100th anniversary in Brussels.