Autobiographical Sketch: Paul Kubelka

Dr.Paul Kubelka
Curriculum Vitae
(Written about 1947)

My father Gustav Kubelka, descending just as my mother Maria from an Austrian family, was an engineer, later manager, and at last chief manager of the well known steel works “Polsihütte” [Poldi-Hütte? see the Poldi Web site] at Kladno, where I was born April 17th, 1900. I was educated in German language. I frequented the elementary school in Kladno, the secondary school in Brno and Prague, where I passed my final examination in spring 1918. Then I served half a year in the Austrian Army, was discharged in November 1918 and began studies at the Technical University (Technische Hochschule) in Prague. In 1922 I passed my final examination as chemical engineer. I then served seven months in the Czechoslovakian Army, where I soon commanded the military analytical laboratory. Besides I found opportunity to work at L. Storch, professor of Physical Chemistry at the Technical University.

After leaving Military Service I came to professor Werner Mecklenburg, the well known colloid chemist, who then directed Inorganic Research Laboratory of the “Verein für Chemische und Metalugische [Metallurgische] Produktion” in Aussig (Usti n. L. ), Czechoslovakia, the leading chemical combine of South-East Europe. Soon I married Margarethe Schönhöfer and in 1924 a daughter Johanna, in 1927 a son Werner was born. Mecklenburg made me his substitute after one years collaboration unofficially, in 1925 then officially. During this period I worked essentially upon activated charcoal. The results were several patentable inventions e.g. the gas mask charcoal “G 1000” well known and used in whole Europe.

It is still now manufacturer [manufactured] by the affiliated factory at Hrusov (Hruschau). One of the theoretical investigation of this period served me as thesis at the University in Prague to obtain the title of Doctor of Engineering “suma com [cum] laude”. In 1926 the General Manager of the combine made me his technical Assistant. In this position I remained two years and I got there a good general view of the various branches of chemical production and the knowledge of administration, of treaty and patent rights etc. In 1928 I entrusted with leading both the Inorganic and Ananalytic laboratories, as successor of professor A. Reis, who meanwhile had succeeded professor Mecklenburg. My laboratory employed 60 persons, hereof 23 graduated chemists and physicists, of which I -- then 28 years aged-- was almost the youngest. The investigated products were abundant. In particular we worked at various salt and gas equiliares, various high temperature reactions, at the preparation of pigments, activated charcoal etc. We elaborated a number of patented processes and new physical and chemical testing methods.

In 1931 I resolved to enter the Academical career. I left the firm, remained however its consultative engineer for further two years and have been in friendly connection with them till now. On account of publication about Absorption and Capillary Condensation I was nominated docent of the University of Prague. At the institute of professor Hans Zocher I began experimented investigation the absorption of vapors by Silica gel, which subsequently led to an exact method of measurement of surface tension of crystals. My work interested Fritz Haber and I could expect my nomination as professor at a German University.

In 1933 the situation thoroughly was changed by the Nazi revolution in Germany. In view of my political conviction I refused to go to Nazi Germany. In the rest of Central Europe my chances were considerably diminished by the flow of significant scientists expelled from Germany. I therefore turned to technological problems. I soon obtained realizable results which led to the foundation of a research company, partners of which were besides myself the patent solicitors E. Schuloff and A. Kaschtovsky. The firms name was “Kubelka Schuloff & Co.” and developed successfully. Some years later after the death of Mr. Schuloff and the retirement of Mr. Kaschtofsky the name of the firm changed to “Dr. P. Kubelka & Co.”. The company established a research laboratory with later a small factory was attached to. Together with some collaborators I worked out a number of new processes which were patented and disposed of by the company. Especially the fungicide “Cuprenox” was successful; the patents were sold in Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Rumania. The sale of the fungicide especially in Czechoslovakia, Switzerland and Germany was important and increasing year by year rapidly; until it was disturbed by the war. Equally the war prevented the realization of other inventions, concerning besides fungicides especially calcium sulfate- and ferric oxide pigments.

Parallel to my work in my establishment I continued to act as consulting engineer. When my agreement with the Aussig Combine expired, I made a new one with two French companies: “Fabrique de Produits Chimique de Thann de Mulhouse” and “potasse et Produits Chimiques”, both managed by Jaques Curisson. This collaboration referring especially to Potassium salts Hyperchlorides ended by the outbreak of the war.

The war and the preceding occupation by the Nazi brought me many difficulties. Born as an Austrian citizen I had got the Czechoslovak citizenship in 1918. This was canceled by the German authorities and changed to German Citizenship on account of the German mother tongue. The German citizenship war not advantageous for me in view of my well known democratic conviction. The rector forbade my lectures and every my activity at the University. I was watched over and several times examined by the Gestapo and in danger to be imprisoned. The circumstances and my permanent efforts to avoid my little establishment to be shut down and my Czech collaborators and employees to be sent off to forced labour very hindered my research activity in this period. However I enlarged my factory by taking up the production of adhesives.

During the revolution events of 1945 both my wife and I were interned by mistake. My wife died in the camp and I was released finally by the efforts of my Czech and Jewish friends in September 1945. I was rehabilitated, the German citizenship nullified, I became stateless and was promised to regain the Czechoslovak citizenship. I accepted the position as research chemist at the Film Company at Cesky Brod near Prague, branch factory of the Aussig Combine. During the 10 months of my working there I worked out a new photomechanical emulsion and reorganized the testing system. The sphere of activity, however, was too small and under the present circumstances In Czechoslovakia I did not see much chance get back both my laboratory and my factory. I therefore decided to America. Waiting for the USA visa I was warned in October 1946 that the Czech authorities intended to prevent me as a specialist to leave the country. In this moment the only possibility to emigrate in legal way was to with a transport of the UNRR to Germany. Quickly I did so, in order not to be retained in Czechoslovakia for a probably very long time, of course with the intention to leave Germany again as soon as possible.

Since then I live in Bavaria with my children, theoretically working about optics of light scattering materials and thermodynamics of Absorption an Capillary Condensation. March 1st I married Dr. Brigitte Gade.

Stephen H. Westin
Last modified: Mon Sep 5 22:29:58 EDT 2011