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Ipatieff, Vladimir Nikolayevich

chemistry russia academy pressure

[ee pat yef] (1867–1952) Russian–US chemist: pioneer of catalytic and isomerization reactions of hydrocarbons.

Ipatieff trained for a military career in Tsarist Russia, as was usual for those, like him, from an aristocratic family. However, he became interested in chemistry through the influence of an uncle, and initially was self-taught, with the help of book The Fundamentals of Chemistry . He attended a military school, became an officer of the Imperial Russian Army in 1887 and entered the Mikhail Artillery Academy (1889–92), studying chemistry and mathematics. After graduation, he became an instructor and eventually professor of chemistry at the Academy. He studied in Munich under (1896) and there synthesized isoprene, so beginning his interest in hydrocarbons. This led to further work at the Academy on high-pressure catalytic and hydrogenation reactions. He developed the Ipatieff ‘bomb’ for this work.

During the First World War Ipatieff co-ordinated Russia’s chemical industries; he was a Lieutenant-General by 1916. The Revolution of 1917 interrupted Ipatieff’s work (it was within his brother’s house that the Tsar and his family were murdered), and he was fortunate to survive when officers of the Imperial Army were at risk. His skills were needed by the Bolsheviks and after a difficult period he worked for Soviet Russia, helping to rebuild its chemical industry.

By 1929 he began to worry about his own safety in Soviet Russia and in 1930 left Russia for America. At the age of 64 he remade his life and career, learned English, was appointed professor of chemistry at Northwestern University (Illinois) and acted as consultant to the Universal Oil Products Company of Chicago, who established the Ipatieff High Pressure Laboratory at Northwestern University, which he directed. In the USA he continued his work on hydrocarbons; he studied their formation, hydrogenation and dehydrogenation, cyclization and isomerization, with the emphasis on high-pressure catalysed reactions. Such processes are of great importance in the petroleum industry.

When aged 40, Ipatieff had the unusual experience of meeting his formerly unknown half-brother Lev Chugaeff (1873–1922), also an organic chemist, and they remained good friends.

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