Vladimir Nikolayevich Ipatieff (also Ipatiev; Russian: Владимир Николаевич Ипатьев) (November 21, 1867 (November 9 OS) – November 29, 1952) was a Russian and American chemist. His most important contributions are in the field of petroleum chemistry.
Life and career
Born in Moscow, Ipatieff first studied artillery in the Mikhailovskaya Artillery Academy in Petersburg, then later studied chemistry in Russia with Alexei Yevgrafovich Favorskii and in Germany. (The prominence of the extended family is illustrated by the fact that the July 17, 1918 extermination of by then ex-Czar Nicholas Romanoff, the Empress and the rest of the royal family, their doctor and retinue actually took place in the basement of a vacation house owned by the Ipatieff family in Ekaterinburg.) His first works in chemistry were devoted to the study of metals and explosives. Later, his works on catalysis methods under high pressure made him famous as a chemist; for his reactions he used massive bombs (often called Ipatieff bomb) made of steel. With the start of World War I, Ipatieff organized a dedicated laboratory in Petersburg which made improvements to the chemical weaponry and the methods of chemical protection for the army. Before the October revolution, Ipatieff was a General-Lieutenant of the Russian army and a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
After the revolution, Ipatieff was active in creating and heading several important chemical research centers in Soviet Russia. Lenin called him "the head of our [Soviet] chemical industry". By the late 1920s, however, Ipatieff was starting to feel threatened because of his past in the Czarist army and because he had friends among those convicted in the Industrial Party trial. In 1930, Ipatieff, fearing that in time he would be victimized, he withdrew only a small amount of money from his accounts and prepared to attend an industry conference in Munich. He invited his wife to come with him, and at the last minute suggested she bring her jewels "in the event that we go dancing." As the train came to the border into Poland, he announced to the shocked wife, "Dear, look back at Mother Russia. You will never see her again." Though he spoke not a word of English, he fled to the United States.
In the US, Ipatieff secured a research-focused chemistry professorship at Northwestern University, in the Chicago suburb of Evanston. there, he discovered alternative fuel mixtures and procedures that greatly enhanced engine performance, and it is said that after changing to Ipatieff fuel mixtures, the RAF was able to best German planes that had outperformed the British previously. Increasingly, he devoted time to commercial applications of his breakthroughs in fuel chemistry, and worked extensively for UOP LLC (Universal Oil Products). He and his students made significant contributions to organic synthesis and petroleum refining. He is considered one of the founding fathers of the modern petroleum chemistry in the US. Ipatieff died in Chicago.
Vladimir Ipatieff had three sons: Dmitry, Nikolai and Vladimir. Dmitry died in World War I. Nikolai was a member of the White movement, emigrated after the end of Russian Civil War and died in Africa testing a treatment he had invented for yellow fever. Vladimir Vladimirovich Ipatieff, also a talented chemist, remained in the USSR and was arrested after the defection of his father. While living in the USA, Ipatieffs also adopted two Russian girls.
The American Chemical Society received a large endowment owing to UOP and eventually in turn established an award called the Ipatieff Prize. Awarded every three years, the Ipatieff Prize honors outstanding experimental work in the field of catalysis or high-pressure chemistry by researchers under the age of 40.