Ernst Leybold combined a willingness to work hard with the ability to recognize when a good business opportunity presented itself. Wolfgang Gaede personally held close to 40 patents in Germany alone for vacuum technology. Dr. Manfred Dunkel expanded his predecessor’s accomplishments to move the company forward.
Ernst Leybold, like his father and grandfather, started out as a merchant. In 1846, he left the house he outgrew in the small town of Rothenburg and took up a sales position in Cologne with Böcker, an import company. By 1850, he was working with a coffee import agency. In 1851, his landlord, Martin Kothe, a sales agent and importer of foreign wines and various pharmacy supplies, died suddenly and left behind a wife with no business experience, so Leybold stepped in to help.
First, he continued simply running the business. He then became involved financially, and finally took over the company in 1863, under the name E. Leybold (formerly Leybold & Kothe). As part of the settlement with Kothe’s heirs, Leybold expanded the pharmacy supplies business line. This decision proved to be a good one. The business of physical and pharmaceutical apparatuses, along with accessories, was so successful that Leybold soon owned his own house and began to acquire land.
In 1864, he opened his main shop in a new building in the Schildergasse/Brüderstraße. At this time, he also had a modest amount of in-house production. Due to its economic success, in 1865, Leybold and Julius v. Holleben also founded a glassworks company in Ehrenfeld one year prior (since 1872 Rhein. Glashütten AG). In 1870 Leybold decided to sell his first company to his partner Otto Ladendor and the merchant Emil Schmidt, who successfully continued the company as “E. Leybold’s Nachfolger” (Company Name).
At the beginning of the 1860’s, Leybold had already been dabbling in property speculation and had been successful with various real estate transactions. He then turned his attention to a spectacular urban planning project, the construction of the Marienburg Villa Colony south of Cologne. He had purchased the Marienburg estate along with the manor house and another 500 acres of land for a modest sum. He moved into the manor house himself in 1873 and leased out the land. Leybold did not limit himself to simply selling the parceled-out land, for example, the area between Cologne’s current traffic arteries, the Bayenthal Belt, Gustav-Heinemann-Ufer, the Military Ring Road and the Bonner Straße. Instead, he tried to increase the area’s residential value. This included road construction measures within the colony, giving it a solid infrastructure with sewers and gas connections, as well as negotiations with the authorities in order to improve transportation connections to Cologne (e.g. a tram). As such, Leybold dedicated the last years of his life more to urban development and various real estate projects than to the further development of vacuum innovations or other scientific projects. He is still considered one of the most influential persons in the 170-year history of Leybold GmbH. His flexibility and complexity is still reflected in the values of the company today.
Another person who had a significant influence on the fate of our company at the beginning of the 20th century was Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Gaede. In 1897, Gaede began studying medicine at the University of Freiburg in Breisgau, but soon switched to the Institute of Physics, where he received his doctorate in 1901 through his thesis entitled, “On the change in the specific heat of metals with temperature”.
Subsequent research on the Volta effect in vacuum was unsuccessful, however, because the level of vacuum that could be achieved with the pump technology at the time was insufficient. This problem led him to his life’s work, the creation of an entirely new, effective apparatus for generating and measuring high vacuum. In 1905, he presented his rotating mercury air pump at the natural scientists’ meeting in Merano and caused quite a stir, despite the fact that this pump (along with his oil capsule pump) were only technical improvements of already known principles. In 1906, we began working with him. From 1906 until his death, the consulting contract with E. Leybold’s Nachfolger in Cologne enabled him to continue his research in his private laboratory, first in Karlsruhe and later in Munich.
Manfred Dunkel took over the Cologne based company, a special factory for high-vacuum pumps and scientific teaching materials founded by E. Leybolds’ Nachfolger, from his father-in law, Alfred Schmidt in 1931. Using the vacuum technology developed by W. Gaede, a university professor in Karlsruhe, he succeeded in expanding the process of high-vacuum technology. In 1952, he founded the subsidiary Leybold-Hochvakuumanlagen GmbH. In 1967, under his direction, the two companies merged with the Heraeus vacuum department in Hanau to form the Leybold Heraeus GmbH & Co.
In 1968, he retired into private life.
Dunkel held numerous honorary positions and received numerous awards. From 1964 to 1966, he was chairman of the metal industry’s employers’ association in Cologne, and from 1950 to 1969, he served as a board member of the association of German precision-mechanical and optical industry e.V. as well as a lay judge, commercial and employment judge in Cologne. Manfred Dunkel established the GAEDE Foundation in 1984 and laid the groundwork for its assets.