Schild: Dr. Berthold, we are grateful and delighted to have the opportunity to conduct this interview with you today. First of all, congratulations: you yourself recently turned 95. Your company is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year - two impressive anniversaries. What do these anniversaries mean to you personally?

Berthold: (laughs) Thank you very much, and yes, if we were celebrating an anniversary today, I would start at the beginning. And the beginning was Rudolf Berthold and not me, right? My father was a professor at the Technical University of Berlin and came from the Röntgen Institute at the Technical University of Stuttgart under Prof. Glocker, who in turn was a student of old Mr. Röntgen. Scientifically speaking, I am a great-grandson of Prof. Röntgen and my father is a grandson.

My father studied X-ray physics and worked at Siemens & Halske in Berlin, which was also working on medical applications of X-rays. And then the question arose as to whether this technology could also be used for material testing, so-called non-destructive material testing. And that's when my father became, so to speak, the founder of non-destructive testing.

I have experienced some of this. It's very difficult to use X-rays for material testing in construction, for example, compared to a practice, and so my father and others first developed equipment to check welds, for example, to see if they were just scaling or if they were really solid. And there had to be an X-ray tube on one side and an X-ray film on the other side, which was in a rubber sleeve.  You could also put a fluorescent film in there, which gave you even more light - at the expense of resolution, by the way.

At that time, a Reich X-Ray Center was founded, which is of course partly piquant, because it ran parallel to the Third Reich. And people like my father, who never became a party member, had to work there, but the technology he developed was of course also good for the war: you could test welds on submarines, which at that time was the usual technology for testing bridges. For the latter, there were the dark gray trolleys that were widely used in Germany at the time, which provided the necessary transformer and a darkroom in which the X-ray film could be developed. They were also equipped with a dynamo powered by the vehicle's diesel engine. And then the expert could immediately see whether the weld on the bridge was in order or not.

But it was all far - or reasonably far - from the company. It was strange how we ended up in Wildbad.

My father was a professor at the Technische Hochschule Berlin and the Reich X-Ray Center was bombed out during the war. It had to be moved to a bomb-proof location. They came up with the idea of Neuenbürg, of all places. The Reich X-Ray Center was then relocated to the former Hotel Bären, or rather a spin-off of it, the Four-Year Plan Institute under the direction of Dr. Adolf Trost. An aunt of the professor from Wildbad had found the empty building and so we went back home to Württemberg. And we all went with them. In the spring of 1949, we finally moved from Neuenbürg to Wildbad to the inn “Zum Kühlen Brunnen”, as the premises in Neuenbürg had become too small.

And now my favorite story - my father was not a party member and after the war a political career was open to him. This was an exception, because many people at that time were Nazis ..... Well, as deputy mayor of Wildbad, he sometimes had to report to the French military governor. The military government here extended from the French down to the district administrator. The district administrator was no longer allowed to be German. A French officer was appointed. And the French district administrator or district commander in Calw was in a way the superior of the local mayors. So, he was also my father's administrative superior in his capacity as deputy mayor.

And that was Raymond Boulanger... and that's a long story in itself, he was an Alsatian Jew, and his real name was Weil. He joined de Gaulle's government in exile in North Africa and marched, so to speak, from Cassbablanca to Calw, Well, and from the other direction came Rudolf Berthold from Berlin. And that's where the two of them met and quickly became friends.

Previously, after the war, the French had confiscated the equipment from the outsourced Four-Year Plan Institute. So, all the measuring instruments, X-ray tubes and counting tubes were gone, stored somewhere in Calw.

And now they must have slowly become friends. At some point, Raymond Boulanger must have said, what am I going to do with this stuff? ... we can't use it - do you want it? And that's how my father founded his company, Laboratorium Prof. Dr. Rudolf Berthold, in 1949.


Raymond was one of our family's best friends at the time, but the story gets even funnier: In the meantime, the company had started to grow a bit, and we realized very early on that we actually needed a sales office in France. So, I went to Paris. I didn't know anyone in France except for Boulanger, the old family friend, and I asked him, "Can you help us find a suitable person for the office? And to my great surprise, he said, "Yes, I can do it myself! (laughs)... and so he became the manager of our branch in France. It was really very romantic, you could say.

Schild: You took over the management of the company after your father's death in 1960. What were your greatest challenges?

Berthold: I didn't want to join the company at all. I wanted to stay in academia, and I had a good chance. The Max Planck Society had sent me to Stanford to learn about high-energy physics and bring something back. Well, during my two-year stay, after about a year, my father became terminally ill, and so I came home. My family stayed because I said I would come back. And then I kind of accompanied my father as he was dying, Then I wanted to go back to Stanford ..... yeah, and then the other owners - it wasn't just the Berthold family - said you must be crazy, you have to be the manager here now. You're the successor. (laughs)... yeah, yeah, I've never done anything like that before - anyway, you're the manager now.

In addition, the Max Planck Society had paid for my stay in Stanford, and the question arose whether I would have to pay it all back.  But then the Minister of Atomic Energy, Mr. Balke, argued that the repayment should be waived because the management of the company was considered important.

So, I wasn't a businessman or an entrepreneur, but I was an ambitious nuclear physicist. I was not prepared to be a manager. But at least my expertise helped me on the technical side, because I was involved in developing new equipment.

Money was also tight. Fortunately, however, the company was like a big family, with almost family ties among the employees. In true Swabian fashion, they would tinker with the measuring equipment on weekends if necessary.

I had a sort of accountant. He was the person in charge of the finances, but he wasn't a real businessman. And then the problems started. Then I hired the first commercial manager - he wasn't bad, but he was an alcoholic, so I fired him. Then came the next one - I had to fire him too. And then Hans Oberhofer came and suddenly we had money.

His predecessors, for example, didn't have a payment reminder system: if customers didn't pay, they just left the thing where it was, and Hans Oberhofer didn't do that. When it comes to money, ask him - he is always the best person to talk to!

Technically, we were good right from the start - and far beyond the start-up stage. That came from the Reich X-Ray Center , of course. We had a good in-house workshop. And then we had the really leading expert in counting tube measurement technology, Dr. Adolf Trost - a really brilliant physicist who was also very knowledgeable in the development of ultrasonic instruments.   He was our head of radiation measurement development, and he made a real difference.

Schild: You have lived through the entire history of Berthold. Is there an event that stands out in your mind? Your "personal Berthold highlight"?

Berthold: You won't believe it, but that was the radio thin-layer chromatography scanner. When the first scanner really worked, it was a world first. There were two biochemists in Berlin at the time, one at Schering and one at the university, and they came up with a thin-layer scanner. We knew we couldn't do it on our own, so we collaborated with them. Then we put the thing together, and when we went to try it out, I said it couldn't possibly work - I could explain why now, but I won't. We started it anyway, with a flow meter tube and a thin film plate, yeah, and then the unbelievable miracle happened, it worked!

Our thin-layer scanner from the early 1960s made it possible for the first time to non-destructively and quantitatively determine radioactive markers separated by thin-layer chromatography.

I later found out that a drawing field had pulled the electrons out of the air and into the counting tube, making the physically impossible possible. That was of course a great joy and my happiest event! It was also the beginning of our Bioanalytical line.

Schild: Last year, Berthold passed the 100-million-euro mark for the first time in an ever-changing business world. What do you think is behind the company's success?

Berthold: What is the basis for this success? Well, I have to point to the quality and commitment of our people. I would also like to thank them. Our employees are the main reason why we have such an excellent reputation and image worldwide. It is the people who work here that count. They are our greatest asset and the most important factor in our success. They have made the difference over the past 75 years, and together we will continue to be successful in the future. I am firmly convinced of that!

Schild: Is there anything that you would like to pass on to the employees of Berthold for the next 75 years?

Berthold: Keep up the good work, but never forget to stay innovative!

Schild: Mr. Berthold, we would like to thank you for the very personal and cordial conversation and wish you all the best for the future!