Giulio Natta

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Imperia, Italy
Birth Sign
Imperia, Italy

Giulio Natta was an Italian chemist who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1963 with Karl Ziegler for their work on polymers. Natta became interested in experimental chemistry while still in high school. Later, he earned a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from the Politecnico di Milano. He returned to his alma institution as a professor three years later, after obtaining the appropriate teaching qualifications. Simultaneously, he conducted thorough testing and quickly acquired an interest in application. During this time, he filed and received his first patent application. Following that, he returned to Politecnico di Milano right before World War II, following brief periods at the Universities of Pavia, Rome, and Turin. His previous research had focused on chemicals such as methanol, formaldehyde, butyraldehyde, and succinic acid. However, following World War II, he decided to focus mostly on polymers. Later, he produced new classes of polymers with the financial backing of major Italian corporations, ushering in a revolution in the Italian industrial landscape. He was a remarkable innovator in addition to his work as a scientist and scholar. He submitted around 4000 patents between 1927 and 1970, many of which have substantial industrial uses.

Childhood and Adolescence

Giulio Natta was born in the Imperia area of Porto Maurizio on February 26, 1903. His father, Francesco Maria, was a well-known judge, and his mother, Elena Crespi, was a well-known actress. Giulio had his early schooling at Genoa’s Colombo High School. During his school years, he frequently conducted loud chemistry experiments in the basement of their home, which he preferred over studying his textbooks. His favorite book as a teenager was Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy.’

Giulio Natta began his studies at the University of Genoa in 1919, where he completed a two-year propaedeutic mathematics degree. In 1921, he enrolled in the Politecnico di Milano, where he studied Industrial Engineering (Chemistry) and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1924.

He also studied at the Institute of General Chemistry under Professor Giuseppe Bruni beginning in 1922. He began working as Bruni’s assistant after graduating from Politecnico di Milano in 1924. On April 12, 1927, he filed his first patent application, titled “Process for the Synthetic Preparation of Liquid Hydrocarbons,” which was eventually approved.

Career of Giulio Natta

Giulio Natta passed the test that allowed him to teach in 1927, and the following year, he began working at Politecnico di Milano as a lecturer (libero docente) in analytical chemistry, a job he held until 1933. Meanwhile, from 1929 to 1933, he taught a Physical Chemistry course at the University of Milan’s Faculty of Science.

He originally used X-rays to study the structure of inorganic compounds and industrial catalysts at the University of Milan. Later in 1932, he studied electron diffraction analysis with Hermann Staudinger in Germany and began to use both procedures to explore the structure of various solid materials.

He then determined the structure of a variety of hydroxides and hydrates. He also built an amazing spectrograph for low temperatures, which he used to analyze and characterize the structure of gases that harden at low temperatures.
His efforts in this area resulted in the development of an experimental gas generator at the Polytechnic of Milan’s Institute of Industrial Chemistry. Another of his key works in the 1930s was the oxidative dehydrogenation of methanol to produce formaldehyde.

Natta became a full professor of physical chemistry at the University of Pavia in 1933. He was also the Director of the Institute of General Chemistry at the same institution at the same time. Natta originally became interested in polymers while studying at the University of Pavia. By 1934, he had begun to look at its structures. He became a full professor of general chemistry at the University of Rome in 1935. In the years that followed, he moved to the University of Turin, where he remained until 1938.

Mario Giacomo Levi was the head of the Politecnico di Milano’s Department of Chemical Engineering at the time. When fascist Italy enacted racial laws against Jews, Levi, who was a Jew, was forced to resign and Natta was appointed in his stead. Natta was a Full Professor of Industrial Chemistry and the Director of the Institute of Applied Chemistry at the Polytechnic of Milan from 1938 to 1968. Simultaneously, he conducted substantial research on rubber synthesis.

After the First World War, the League of Nations levied penalties on Italy for invading Ethiopia in 1935. To get around these penalties, Italy started encouraging scientists to work on synthetic rubber. As a result, he began working on the polymerization of olefins as well as the kinetics of their concurrent processes in 1938. Then came World War II, and research was pushed to the background. Natta, on the other hand, began his polymer research with vigor when the war ended.

Karl Ziegler created a catalytic system based on titanium halides and organoaluminium compounds at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung in Germany in 1953. It enabled the polymerization to take place at ambient temperature and under moderate pressure.

Natta took up the effort with the help of a huge Italian corporation named Montecatini, and by expanding Ziegler’s experiments, he discovered new classes of sterically ordered polymers such as isotactic, syndiotactic, and di-isotactic polymers.

He later created linear non-branched olefinic polymers and copolymers having an atactic structure while working in Montecatini’s laboratory. Prof. Natta had also been able to determine the exact arrangement of chains in the lattice of the novel crystalline polymers he had found using X-ray research.

Natta was a superb scientist, but he was also a great teacher, and he educated a large number of pupils who eventually went on to hold significant positions at other colleges. He is claimed to have prepared each and every class in advance, and his students admired his dedication to teaching.

Major Projects of Giulio Natta

Professor Giulio Natta produced a lot of breakthroughs throughout the course of his long career. He worked extensively with methanol, formaldehyde, butyraldehyde, and succinic acid prior to WWII. His work during this time period resulted in contemporary commercial syntheses of these compounds.

His work in the late 1920s paved the way for the establishment of Italy’s first methanol facility in 1930. Then, thanks to his work on formaldehyde, he was able to develop new catalysts that could be used on an industrial scale. In the postwar period, he is most renowned for his work on polymers. He produced numerous classes of them beginning in 1953, including isotactic, syndiotactic, and di-isotactic polymers, as well as linear non-branched olefinic polymers and copolymers.

Achievements & Awards

Natta was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1963 for his “discoveries in the field of high polymer chemistry and technology.” He was awarded the prize alongside Karl Ziegler, who was the first to create a catalytic system that allowed for polymerization at ambient temperature and under normal pressure.

Personal History and Legacy

Natta married Rosita Beati, a cultured and sensitive woman, in 1935. Despite her humanities education, she aided Natta in a variety of ways. The marriage had two children: Giuseppe, a boy, and Franca, a girl. Rosita passed away in 1968.

Natta was a quiet and reserved individual. He also possessed the unusual ability to command respect without ever raising his voice. Instead, he used love and kindness to persuade others. He also enjoyed being outside and was a big fan of nature. He went fishing or skiing on a regular basis. He also enjoyed taking lengthy walks.

Natta was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1956, and by 1963, it had progressed to the point that he required assistance to deliver his talks. Finally, in 1968, he left the Polytechnic of Milan, bringing an end to nearly four decades of illustrious scientific career.

At the age of 76, he died on May 2, 1979, in Bergamo, Italy. A set of catalysts known as Ziegler-Natta catalysts are utilized in the manufacture of 1-alkene polymers (alpha-olefins). They’re named for Giullo Natta and Karl Ziegler, respectively. Since 1956, the catalyst has been employed in the commercial production of several polyolefins.

Natta’s wife, Rosita Beati, was a literature graduate. She was the one who gave the names ‘isotactic,’ ‘atactic,’ and’syndiotactic’ to the polymers Natta found.

Estimated Net Worth

Giulio is one of the wealthiest chemists and is on the list of the most popular chemists. Giulio Natta’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.