Ernest Solvay, a scientific entrepreneur’s quest for an all-embracing system

On 26 May 1922, Ernest Solvay, scientific entrepreneur and humanist, passed away. Today, the Mundaneum and the Solvay group pay him homage through a virtual exhibition on the Google Arts & Culture platform. This digital partnership echoes the very real collaboration of Solvay with Henri La Fontaine and Paul Otlet, more than a century ago.

« Great minds think alike »

Ernest Solvay is first and foremost known as a prosperous entrepreneur, founder of the multinational Solvay that is still active in chemistry more than 150 years later. Profoundly humanistic, he tried all his life to bring together industrial and social progress, favoring the development of science and the internationalization of knowledge through a network of researchers. A passion and goal shared by the founders of the Mundaneum.

The three men collaborated on the one hand with the International Office of Sociological Bibliography, created by the Mundaneum duo, of which Ernest Solvay was president, on the other, by the participation of La Fontaine and Otlet to the work of the Institute of Social Sciences (ISS) Solvay created. The two organizations even happened to be neighbours in the Hotel Ravenstein in Brussels! The virtual exhibition "Ernest Solvay, a scientific entrepreneur's quest for an all-embracing system" is rooted in Belgium’s cultural landscape at the end of the 19th century, a period of scientific and intellectual effervescence. This fertile ground allowed Paul Otlet, Henri La Fontaine and Ernest Solvay to become acquainted and contribute to the legitimation of humanities and social sciences. The exhibition of this avant-gardist and prosperous autodidact : an incarnation, like Otlet and La Fontaine, of his time.

Discover the exhibition HERE !

For more information : Solvay. History of a Multinational Family Firm de Kenneth Bertrams, Nicolas Coupain et Ernst Homburg (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Press release (French and English)