History of Bayer

It all starts with a friendship between two men, plenty of natural curiosity and two kitchen stoves. Businessman Friedrich Bayer and dyer Johann Friedrich Weskott use these to conduct experiments and eventually discover how to make the dye fuchsine. On August 1, 1863, they found the "Friedr. Bayer et. comp." company in Wuppertal-Barmen, a 19th century startup with tremendous potential. 

1863–1881: The Early Years


On August 1, 1863, dye salesman Friedrich Bayer and master dyer Johann Friedrich Weskott found the general partnership “Friedr. Bayer et comp.,” and the company enjoys rapid growth. The financial foundation for expansion is laid in 1881 when Bayer is transformed into a joint stock company.


1881–1914: Becoming an International Company

Carl Duisberg

Between 1881 and 1914, Bayer develops into a chemical company with international operations. Although dyestuffs remain the company’s largest division, new fields of business are being added. The establishment of a major research facility by Carl Duisberg is of primary importance for the company’s continuing development.


1914–1925: World War I and Its Consequences

consequences of World War I

Bayer's dazzling development is interrupted by World War I. The company is largely cut off from its major export markets, and sales of dyes and pharmaceuticals drop accordingly. Bayer is increasingly integrated into the war economy. Bayer opens its third German production site in Dormagen in 1917.


1925–1945: I.G. Farbenindustrie AG

I.G. Farbenindustrie AG

Once the global economy has stabilized in the mid-1920s, it becomes clear that the German dyestuffs industry will be unable to regain its former position in the world market. In 1925, six German companies take the decision to form a community of interests – Interessengemeinschaft Farbenindustrie AG.


1945–1951: Dissolution of the I.G. and Reestablishment of Bayer

reestablishment of Bayer

In November 1945, the Allied Forces confiscate the I.G. and place all its sites under the control of Allied officers. The company is to be dissolved and its assets made available for war reparations. But this is not how things turn out…


1951–1974: Reconstruction and the “Economic Miracle”

Reconstruction and the “Economic Miracle”

The reconstruction of Bayer is closely linked with the Wirtschaftswunder, or “economic miracle,” in the Federal Republic of Germany. As a result of World War II, Bayer for the second time loses its foreign assets, including its valuable patents. Bayer begins to reestablish its sales activities abroad in 1946, while still under Allied control.


1974–1988: Oil Crisis and Consolidation

Oil Crisis and Consolidation

The oil crisis of 1973/74 ends the “economic miracle” once and for all. When Herbert Grünewald succeeds Kurt Hansen as Chairman of the Board of Management in 1974, the global economy is in a severe recession. Within just a few months, prices for chemical raw materials based on oil quadruple.


1988–2001: Transformation and Globalization

Transformation and Globalization

Celebrating 100 years of Aspirin™. Also Bayer, like other companies, is tested by the challenges presented by the globalization and structural change of the 1990s. In the wake of the radical political changes taking place in Germany and Eastern Europe after 1989, the company increases its focus on these promising markets.


2001–2010: Reorganization of the Group

Reorganization of the Group

Bayer celebrates a century of culture at Bayer and 100 years of the Bayer Cross. Three new subgroups – Bayer HealthCare, Bayer CropScience and Bayer MaterialScience – are founded during this time. Bayer spins off Lanxess AG and acquires Schering AG.


2010–2022: Investing in the Future

investing in the Future

In 2013, Bayer celebrates the 150th anniversary of its foundation worldwide. The company sends an airship and anniversary exhibition around the world and celebrates with German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel. In 2015 the subgroup MaterialScience becomes an independent company under the new name Covestro. On June 7, 2018 Bayer successfully completes the acquisition of Monsanto. In December 2019 Bayer announces that it will significantly step-up its sustainability efforts and sets itself ambitious targets. In 2020 Bayer acquires Asklepios BioPharmaceutical (AskBio) and launches a new platform for cell and gene therapy. 


2023: A New Chapter

Werner Baumann, Prof. Dr. Norbert Winkeljohann and Bill Anderson (from left) at the Bayer AG Annual Stockholders’ Meeting 2023

At the end of May, CEO Werner Baumann retires after 35 years of service. As of June 1, he is succeeded by American citizen Bill Anderson, who joins the company as a member of the Board of Management in April. “He is the ideal candidate to lead Bayer together with the team into a new, successful chapter,” says Supervisory Board Chairman Prof. Dr. Norbert Winkeljohann.