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The madness of Fine Chemicals

Member of Chimica Oggi / Chemistry Today’s Scientific Advisory Board
Evonik Industries AG, c/o 20 Albert Street, Western Hill Durham, DH1 4RL, United Kingdom

"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one" (1). When Charles Mackay wrote these words in the 19th century, he illustrated his theme with many of the financial bubbles and episodes of mass hysteria from earlier periods. Economists have since applied his ideas to subsequent financial bubbles, for example the dot-com boom at the close of the 20th century. Mackay would surely have recognised the history of the fine chemicals industry over the last 20 years as a further example of “the madness of crowds”.
Peter Pollak, in his excellent book on the fine chemicals industry (2) describes very well the facts and figures of the turbulence of recent years, but I think he misses the human element of the effects of these changes. Many of those who have lived through these times have come to terms with frequent changes of ownership and company direction and strategy; indeed many have acquired collections of different business cards without ever changing their desks. Others have lost their jobs and had to move several times as a result ...