The Treasure Seeker - Wacker Chemie AG


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The Treasure Seeker

He doesn’t work in a lab, but rather at a former bowling alley. And he spends his time trawling through files rather than shaking test tubes. Dr. Christian Finger has embarked on an unusual career for a chemist.

In the Historical Archive at Burghausen, Dr. Christian Finger is responsible for 1,000 meters worth of storage space filled with documents.

The head of the company’s historical archive is a man much in demand. We meet him directly after he has given a lecture to 300 guests at WACKER’s Supplier Day. Of course this meant covering the highlights from the company’s 100 years of history, a topic, which in recent weeks has demanded the 51-year-old’s attention practically round the clock.

Strictly speaking, Christian Finger has two places of work. A regular office and then of course the archive, which is housed in a basement room that once served as a bowling alley. The good thing is that “There is no piping down here,” says Christian Finger, “Archivists hate piping, especially water pipes.” Instead, behind the bright steel doors there are around 1,000 meters of storage space filled with documents. Starting with the commemorative publication for the Schuckert electrical plants in 1893, the archives also include the school report card of the company’s founder, Alexander Wacker, as well as contracts and lab reports spanning 100 years of WACKER history. Finger compiled most of the photographic treasures which can be seen in the WACKER centennial chronicle down here. “The chronicle is a fantastic way to bring WACKER’s history to a wider audience,” says Christian Finger, “it was a unique experience for me to work on the project.” The chronicle is not only available in print but also with an altered layout as an ebook. Finger has also applied for the prestigious “Corporate Archive of the Year” prize.

As well as the archive, Finger is also in charge of the “Global WACKER Information Center” (GWIC). Here, WACKER employees from all over the world are able to request information needed for their daily work. Then Finger and his colleagues trawl through both their own archive and technical library as well as other special databases – and are usually successful. Christian Finger: “If ever I can’t find the required information because it was published in some Siberian journal ages ago, I take it as a personal defeat.” Fortunately this does not happen too often. To begin with, requests came predominantly from Burghausen. In the meantime, not just German staff members, but also WACKER colleagues in the US and other WACKER countries know that Christian Finger and his team will be able to provide information which would be impossible to find elsewhere.

Before Christian Finger became “Director of Information Management”,as the title is officially known, he worked for many years in chemical research as laboratory director at WACKER SILICONES. “I was perfectly happy there,” he says today. But towards the turn of the millennium he was inclined to transfer within the company – and to this day has not regretted it.

However, he still goes back to his roots twice a year. For five years now, he and his friend and colleague Dr. Guido Kallinger, have been giving experiment demonstrations at the “junior universities” in Burghausen and Mühldorf, which were started up by the local adult education center. The two WACKER scientists show primary school children how a sparkler still burns even when submerged under water or how to set gummy bears alight. In contrast to current trends in society, being able to inspire the children with a passion for natural sciences is very close to both men’s hearts. “I get more stage-fright before those lectures than any others,” explains Finger. And there are many of them: Finger regularly gives lectures to customers and employees. He is particularly looking forward to the experiment-demonstration lecture on the history of WACKER’s products, which he will be presenting with Guido Kallinger at the 2014 Burghausen open house.

Christian Finger also heads up the chemistry archivists’ working group, which represents archivists from all well-known chemistry and pharmaceutical companies in German-speaking countries. What’s interesting is that: “Apart from me, there is only one other chemist – the rest are all historians.” It was probably due to exactly this fact that he was chosen for the job.