Johann Rudolf Geigy-Merian (1830–1917)

Johnann Rudolf Geigy-Merian was a member of the family who established a pharmaceutical company in Basel which developed in the nineteenth century into one of Europe’s principal centres of the chemical industry. He was also involved in the development of synthetic dyestuffs and allied products.

He was the great-grandson of Johann Rudolf Geigy-Gemuseus (1733-93) who founded the firm of J R Geigy, druggists in Basel, the grandson of Jerome Geigy (1771-1830) and the son of Karl Geigy (1798-1861). He served an apprenticeship with his father before travelling to gain commercial experience in England, France and India. He returned to Basel to work for the family firm in 1854 and the following year married another member of the city’s commercial aristocracy, Maria Merian (1837-1912), daughter of the silk manufacturer Samuel Merian.

He built a dyeworks in 1857 and developed an interest in the production of aniline dyes and in the derivatives used in the manufacture of plastics and medicines. Geigy was also involved in banking and in politics and was on the boards of several railway companies including that which built the Gotthard line.  In 1898 he expanded the company by establishing a factory across the border of the German Empire at Grenzach, now in Baden-Württemburg.  In 1901 it became a public company which from 1914 was called J R Geigy AG.

In due course J R Geigy merged with another of the giant Basel chemical firms, Gesellschaft für Chemische Industrie in Basel (or CIBA), and long after the death of J R Geigy Ciba-Geigy made a further merger with Sandoz, another Basel firm, to form the world’s largest pharmaceutical company.