Emery I. Valko

16th Olney Medalist
Industrial Chemist, Associate Professor Lowell Tech

Emery I. Valko 1902 – ?
16th Olney Medalist 1959


Emery (nee Imre) Valko was born in Abony, Hungary, near Budapest on September 1, 1902. He attended school in Budapest until his 19th year when he entered the University of Vienna to study chemistry. He quickly and brilliantly moved through his studies and received a Ph.D. under the guidance of Professor Wolfgang Pauli, a biochemist and colloid chemist and father of the Nobel Prize winner of the same name. Before his dissertation was completed one of his publications was already quoted in a standard textbook on colloid chemistry. He remained at the university for two years after obtaining his degree and co­authored with Dr. Pauli a 600­page book in German, “Electrochemistry of Colloids,” writing the entire book in longhand.

Valko as a first­year student 1921 and in the laboratory at Vienna 1924

The theory of colloid chemistry was a controversial subject in the late­1920s, with three or four major schools of thought. The book was intended to state the case based on the work in Vienna. As might be expected, the work brought criticism and recognition while exerting a great influence on the development of colloid chemistry. The work in Vienna marked the beginning of his interest in industrial processes. A publication in 1926 gave a colloid chemical theory of the dispersion of lime soap by excess soap or by surface­active agents resistant to hardness. (It was noted (1) that this paper was written years before the first synthetic detergents were discovered) Another paper published in Vienna with a colleague F. Blank, explained the phenomenon of stratification during electrodialysis, the phenomenon which forms the basis of electrodecantation later known as the electrophoresis – convection process.

The research group at I.G. Farben Badische, Ludwigshafen. K.H. Meyer (left bottom) and Herman Mark (right). Valko( center rear) looks on.

In 1929, Valko moved from Vienna to the laboratory at IG Farben (now BASF) in Ludwigshafen, Germany where he worked under the direction of two outstanding scientists, Herman F. Mark, who later came to Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, and Kurt Heinrich (K.H.) Meyer, who later moved to the University of Geneva. This group developed one of the three schools of thought in the development of modern polymer chemistry. Indeed, Herman Mark was regarded as almost a god by polymer chemists in his day. The other two labs were that of Wallace Carothers at DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware and Hermann Staudinger of the University of Freiburg, Breisgau, Germany (Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1953). Valko adopted a German version of his name and was known as Emerich Valko. The lab had tremendous potential until the Nazi politics against Jews forced Meyer then Mark to leave.

The freedom to choose research projects led Valko to work in other areas and led him to the azo dye department and a very pretty girl. He asked about her. Fräulein Hermine Herminghausen was a chemist working in the dyeing field. Eventually they married in 1935.

Once he began investigating the scientific aspects, he found that the theory of the dyeing process was a bit confusing. How to simplify? He worked to bring order and clarity to the process. His papers led to a third book, entitled “Colloid Chemical Principles of Textile Processing,” a 700­page volume that was widely acclaimed. His approach was based originally on the question of the role played by the size of dye particles, or the degree of association of dye molecules in the dyeing process. He measured the diffusivity of dyes. This study led to a new concept developed at the same time by J. Boulton and T.H. Morton of Courtaulds in England.

At the same time his interest in surface­active agents grew. He was the first to demonstrate that synthetic detergents could be formed into toilet bars, some 20­25 years before they became commercial. “My trouble,” he remarked, “has been that too often I was 25 years ahead of my time. Now I merely hope to keep a few months ahead!”

The Nazis exerted more and more interference, and in 1938, Dr. Valko decided to leave Germany. In September, he attended the Milwaukee meeting of the American Chemical Society. During this trip, he visited R.E. Rose, director of the technical laboratory at DuPont. With the help and persuasion of Dr. and Mrs. Rose, Dr. Valko accepted a position with Onyx Oil and Chemical Company, and in March, 1939 with his wife and a four­month old daughter, he left the Third Reich and came to St. Johns, Quebec and then in May 1941, he was transferred to the Jersey City laboratories of Onyx. He became a U.S. citizen in 1946.

After Pearl Harbor, the work of Dr. Valko was directed mainly toward supplying the needs of the armed forces. Based on his early work in the field of cationic germicides, he developed for Onyx the production of quaternary ammonium compounds, which were used in large quantities by the US Army and Navy as germicides.

The medalist claimed that the successful production of the first ton lot of germicide for the armed forces, under his personal supervision, was one of the greatest thrills he had experienced in his professional life. It gave him particular satisfaction to be responsible for the largest volume­production of a compound ever made, the germicidal efficiency of which he himself discovered in test­tube scale experiments made ten years earlier.

Another development which followed shortly after was the production of nonionic surface­active agents used as salt­water detergents by mobile laundries of the Army. Again, his initial interest was essentially theoretical. “As a matter of fact,” he declared, “the expression ‘nonionic surface­active agents’ was coined by myself in 1934, and in 1944, I was supervising the large­volume production of these compounds.”

He did not lose interest in the theoretical relation, however, as shown by publications with D.S. Dubois of West Disinfectant which dealt with the mechanism of antibacterial action of surface­active cations. Many of the cationic germicides which found widespread application, such as the highly­efficient chlorobenzyl derivatives and those used on unsaturated fatty derivatives, were introduced by Dr. Valko.

In 1946, he became director of research for EF Drew & Co., Boonton, NJ. Patents dealt with such divergent products as plasticizers, foam­inhibitors, and edible emulsifiers for ice cream and shortening. From 1949­ 1954, he was an independent consultant and became associated with the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, renewing his association with Dr. Herman Mark. In 1954, Valko returned to Onyx as vice president in charge of research and development, a position he left in 1958 to accept the appointment to his position as associate professor of chemistry at Lowell Technological Institute, Lowell, Massachusetts.

16th Olney Medalist

Receiving the certificate from Paul Meunier. Mrs. Valko looks on

Dr. Valko married Hermine (1935) and had one daughter.


AATCC; Fellow, New York Academy of Sciences; Fellow, Textile Institute (GB); member, American Panel of Textile Institute; Fellow, Society of Dyers and Colourists; member, Governing Council of the Fiber Society; member, American Chemical Society; member, American Oil Chemist’s Society; member, Society of Cosmetic Chemists; member, American Association of Textile Technologists; Chairman, Gordon Research Conference – Textiles 1958.


  1. Pauli, Wo and E. Valko, “Elektrochemie der Kolloide”, (Electrochemistry of Colloids), Vienna, 1929, 641 pages.
  2. Pauli, Wo and E Valko, “Kolloidchemie der Eiweisskörper,” (Colloid Chemistry of Proteins), Dresden, 1932, 352 pages.
  3. Valko, E., “Kolloidchemische Grundlagen der Textilveredlung,” (Colloid Chemical Principles of Textile Processing), Berlin, 1937, 701 pages.


Six review articles for text books and encyclopedias, Author 33 technical papers between 1925 and 1958. Best Technical Paper, American Dyestuff Reporter, 1958

Valko, E. I., Tesoro, G.C., Ginilewicz, W., “Elimination of Static Electricity from Textiles by Chemical Finishing, American Dyestuff Reporter, 1958, page 403.

Patents more than 24: 13 US, 4 German, 3 British, 2 French, 2 Canadian

  1. US Patent 1,988,448, “Production of Conversion Products of Rubber,” with H. Hopff and F. Ebel.
  2. US Patent 2,416,522, “ Production of Oxazolines,”
  3. US Patent 2,520,255, “Aromatic Diquaternary Ammonium Compounds,” with Adrien S. Dubois.
  4. US Patent 2,542,642, “Organic Heterocyclic Quaternary Ammonium Compounds,” with Adrien S. Dubois, Filed Dec 28, 1946, Issued Feb 20, 1951.
  5. US Patent 2,606,838, “Emulsified Ice Cream Composition”, Filed Nov 16, 1949, Issued Aug 12, 1952.
  6. US Patent 2,610,125, “ Edible Fatty Material”, Filed Issued
  7. US Patent 2,616,865, “Vinyl Chloride and Vinyl Acetate Copolymer Plasticized with Mixed Esters of Tetrahydrofurfurylalcohol”, Filed May 7, 1949, Issued Nov 4, 1952.
  8. US Patent 2,635,079, “Antifoam Material,” with J. Kamlet, Filed Issued.
  9. US patent 2,636,036, “Aromatic Nitrogen Compounds,” with Adrien S. Dubois, Filed Issued
  10. US Patent 2,666,706, “Polyethylene Glycol Esters in Fat,” Filed Issued.
  11. US Patent 2,882,185, “Water­Soluble Basic Polyamides,” with G Tesoro and ED Szubin, Filed Apr 13, 1956, Issued Apr 14, 1959.
  12. US patent 3,288,175, “Textile Material, Filed Oct 22, 1964, Issued Nov 29, 1966
  13. US Patent 4,092,108, “Compositions and Process for Imparting Durable Flame resistance to Cellulosic Textiles, Emery I. Valko , deceased, with G. Tesoro, W.F. Olds. Filed Jan 10, 1977, Issued May 30, 1978
  14. And others.



  1. Editor, “Emery I Valko Named Olney Medalist, American Dyestuff Reporter, June 15, 1959, page 53.
  2. Brown, Barbara, “Emery I. Valko 16th Olney Medalist,” American Dyestuff Reporter, September 21, 1959, pages 109­113.
  3. Valko, Emery I., Remarks, American Dyestuff Reporter, November 2, 1959, page 49.