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Alfred Bader Papers

Identifier: 2016-041

Scope and Content

The Alfred Bader Papers contain the business records and personal papers of Austrian Canadian research chemist, entrepreneur, art historian, and art collector Alfred Bader. The contents of the Alfred Bader Papers had very little original order to them when donated to the Science History Institute. The collection has been arranged artificially by the processor into the following seven series:

  1. Sigma-Aldrich Corporation Files
  2. Personal Files
  3. Ledger and Research Notebooks
  4. Printed Materials
  5. Oversized
  6. Audio-Visual and Electronic Storage Materials
  7. Images


  • Creation: 1938-2016
  • Creation: Majority of material found within Bulk 1955-2006


Language of Materials

A majority of the materials in this collection are in English. Also includes small amounts of materials in German, Latin, and Czech.

Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes and the collection is open to the public.

Copyright Information

The Science History Institute holds copyright to the Alfred Bader Papers. The researcher assumes full responsibility for all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Background Note

Alfred Bader (1924-2018) was an Austrian Canadian research chemist, entrepreneur, art historian, and art collector. An Austrian Jew, Bader was born on April 28, 1924 in Vienna, Austria. In June 1938, he was forced out of school because Jews were forbidden to attend beyond the age of fourteen. On December 10, 1938, he was sent from Austria to England as part of the Kindertransport to escape Nazi persecution. While in England, Bader attended the East Hove Senior School for Boys and Brighton Technical College. In 1940, due to the outbreak of World War II, he was interned as an enemy alien by the British government. This caused him to be deported to Canada, where he was sent to an internment camp for European refugees.

While in the internment camp, Bader passed his junior and senior matriculation, taking exams from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. A Montreal sponsor, Martin Wolff, welcomed him into a Canadian Jewish family in late 1941 and encouraged him to study further. After being rejected by McGill University, which had a Jewish "quota" and by the University of Toronto, where the chemistry department was doing sensitive war work, Bader was accepted by Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. He received his B.S. in Engineering Chemistry from Queen’s University (1945), followed by a B.A. in History (1946) from the same school. During the summers, Bader worked for Murphy Paint Company in Montreal, formulating paints, lacquers, and varnishes to order. He completed his M.S. in Chemistry (1947) at Queen’s University, while doing considerable work on the oxidation of linoleic acids and isomeric tetrahydroxy stearic acids. While working for Murphy Paint Company, Bader was offered financial support to do graduate work, on the condition that he return to work at the company.

Bader was awarded a research fellowship allowing him to attend Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he was a student of organic chemist Louis F. Fieser. He received both an M.A. in Chemistry (1949) and a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry (1950) from Harvard. In 1950, Bader moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to take up a position as a research chemist with Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company (PPG). His appointment to PPG’s Milwaukee, Wisconsin research facilities broke an unwritten rule against the hiring of Jews and African-Americans.

While at PPG, where he served as Research Chemist and Organic Group Leader (1950-1954), Bader did significant work in noncatalytic transesterification and in the development of monomers, including systematic studies of alkenylphenols, unsaturated phenols, and phenolic resins. This work led to him being awarded a number of patents. The patent for his method of creating diphenolic acid was later sold by PPG to S. C. Johnson and Son, Incorporated for one million dollars.

While working at PPG, Bader saw the need for a reliable company dedicated to providing quality research chemicals. At the time, Eastman Kodak Company was the only supplier such chemicals. In 1951, Bader and his friend, attorney Jack N. Eisendrath, founded Aldrich Chemical Company, with each of them putting two hundred-fifty dollars into the venture. Aldrich started as a mail order business, selling domestic and imported chemicals from a series of catalogs which grew in size and reputation.

When the PPG decided to move its research facilities from Milwaukee to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Bader declined to follow, resigning to devote his full attention to his business. In 1955, he bought out Eisendrath and became sole proprietor of Aldrich until 1966, when it became a publicly traded company following an initial offer of one hundred thousand shares of stock, of which only fourteen thousand shares were sold. Aldrich’s expertise lay in the field of organic chemicals, but with the burgeoning of research in the biochemical area, Aldrich viewed expansion as both natural and desirable.

In 1971, Aldrich purchased sixteen percent of the stock of Hexagon Laboratories, Incorporated, a New York manufacturer of pharmaceuticals and biochemical intermediates. In January 1975, Hexagon received a tender offer from Pharma-Investment Limited, a Canadian affiliate of Boehringer Ingelheim, G.m.b.H., a German pharmaceutical manufacturer. That same year, Aldrich merged with Sigma International, Limited, a St. Louis, Missouri-based manufacturer of biochemical products. The resultant holding company became known as Sigma-Aldrich Corporation and was based in St. Louis. With sales in excess of two billion dollars, Sigma-Aldrich became the most profitable chemical company in the world.

From 1975 to 1980, Alfred Bader served as President of Sigma-Aldrich Corporation. He served as Chairman of the company from 1980 to 1988. In an instance of unexpected corporate upheaval, Bader was voted off Sigma-Aldrich’s Board of Directors in 1992, losing the title of Chairman Emeritus, but remaining one of the company’s largest stockholders. Sigma-Aldrich later reinstated him in the role of "Chemist Collector," in which he provided the company’s journal Aldrichimica Acta with paintings for publication on its covers.

After Bader was expelled from Sigma-Aldrich’s Board of Directors, he decided to pursue his great love of art, becoming a respected art historian as well as a dealer in fine art. His specialty was the Dutch School and he had a special fondness for works depicting alchemical and biblical scenes.

Bader was an active member of several professional organizations, including the American Chemical Society and Royal Society of Chemistry. He was the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including honorary doctorates from Purdue University (1984) and Queen’s University (1986), and the American Institute of Chemists Gold Medal (1997). Bader authored several scientific journal articles and papers. He also presented numerous lectures on art history and was author of the book Adventures of a Chemist Collector (1995).

Bader was also an active philanthropist. He gave charitable donations to several universities, including his alma mater Queen’s University. Bader established a number of fellowships, including the Alfred Bader Graduate Fellowship. He also funded several awards, including the American Chemical Society’s Alfred Bader Award in Bioinorganic or Bioorganic Chemistry and the Austrian Academy of Sciences’ Ignatz Lieben Prize.

Alfred Bader passed away on December 23, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


Aldrich Chemical Company Collection, Science History Institute Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Alfred Bader Papers, Science History Institute Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Oral History Interview with Alfred Bader, Science History Institute Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


23.0 Linear Feet (11 Record Boxes, 2 Hollinger Boxes, 8 Oversized Boxes, and 2 Map Tubes.)


Business records, correspondence, personal files, notebooks, printed materials, audio-visual materials, and photographic materials of Austrian Canadian research chemist, entrepreneur, art historian, and art collector Alfred Bader.

Acquisition Information

The Alfred Bader Papers were donated to the Science History Institute (formerly the Chemical Heritage Foundation) by Alfred Bader in two accretions: August 2016 and December 2016.

Related Materials

The Aldrich Chemical Company Collection is preserved at the Science History Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Oral History Interview with Alfred Bader is preserved at the Science History Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Alfred Bader Family Collection is preserved at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York, New York.

The Bader Family Papers are preserved at the Victoria University Libraries’ Special Collections in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Processing Information

The Alfred Bader Papers were processed by Kenton G. Jaehnig in December 2022.

Alfred Bader Papers
Finding aid created and encoded into EAD by Kenton G. Jaehnig.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Science History Institute Archives Repository

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Philadelphia PA 19106 United States
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