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Born in 1910 in Yokohama, Japan, Kurt Hansen is remembered at Bayer for his untiring efforts to boost the company's international competitiveness. Although most of Bayer's plants had been largely destroyed in World War II, Hansen succeeded during the 1950s and 1960s — backed by a motivated workforce — in laying the foundations for Bayer's long-term global success.
Kurt Hansen began his study of chemistry at Munich Technical University in 1929, graduating with a doctorate in 1935 under Nobel Prize laureate Hans Fischer. One year later he also earned a degree in business studies. In the same year he took on his first position as a chemist at Filmfabrik Wolfen, a subsidiary of I. G. Farben. A few months later, he transferred to the photographic paper factory in Leverkusen. In 1938, at the age of 28, Hansen assumed business responsibility for the Alizarin Department in Leverkusen, where madder red was artificially synthesized. In 1943 he transferred to Berlin, where his job was to organize the procurement and distribution of raw materials. After a brief period of internment, he returned to Leverkusen in 1945.
With the staunch support of future Management Board Chairman Ulrich Haberland, Hansen successfully promoted Bayer's broad spectrum of expertise in the United States and India, at the same time making important business contacts. Polyurethanes played a particularly important role during his first trips abroad, as the Germans enjoyed a lead in expertise in this field that was of interest to the Americans. In 1955 Hansen traveled to India to advise the government on the construction of a textile production plant. One year later he became manager of the Elberfeld site. In 1958 he was appointed to the Board of Management, whose Chairman he became four years later following the death of Professor Haberland. In the years that followed, Hansen played a crucial role in the restructuring of the Bayer Group and helped to further expand the company's international position, particularly outside Europe.
In 1974 Hansen retired from the Board of Management and joined the Supervisory Board, whose Honorary Chairman he was named in 1984 upon his retirement from active service. Kurt Hansen established the foundation that bears his name in order to promote science teaching. The foundation's endowment is still administered by Bayer AG. Hansen was a recipient of numerous honors, including honorary professorships at the universities of Bonn and Cologne. Professor Kurt Hansen died on January 26, 2002 at the age of 92.