A German chemical company.

Information assimilated from basf.com:
Some History
BASF stands for Badische Anilin- & Soda-Fabrik AG. It was founded in 1865 by Friedrich Engelhorn. Its first products were dyestuffs, which were in demand because of rising population and a growing textile industry. It marketed a synthetic indigo dye in 1897.
The Haber-Bosch process for synthesizing ammonia had been developed from 1908 to 1912, and in 1913, BASF opened the first ammonia plant (which was destroyed by an explosion in 1921). It also started producing fertilizer in that year. At that time BASF was heavily involved in agricultural chemistry.
In 1925 BASF, Hoechst, Bayer, and three other companies merged into I.G. Farbenindustrie AG, with headquarters in Frankfurt. After automobiles became common in the 1920’s I. G. Farben "invested heavily in the development of fuels, operating agents and synthetic rubber, and also of coatings raw materials and surface coatings". A synthetic rubber called "Buna" was developed in 1930. The company switched to a war economy during the Second World War. In November of 1945 the Allies ordered the breakup of I. G. Farben. In 1952 BASF AG was entered into the commercial registry.
From 1953 through the rest of the 1950’s BASF played a major role in the German plastics industry, marketed nylon, and developed a foam trademarked "Styropor" which was used for insulation and packaging. At this time the use of coal as the raw material started to give way to the use of oil.
Systematic environmental protection was begun in 1957. Throughout the 1960’s the company expanded internationally. Since 1965, "consumer products and other high value-added lines" were added.

The current product line is listed under the categories "Oil and Gas", "Colorants and Finishing Products", "Plastics and Fibres", "Chemicals", and "Health and Nutrition", which includes things like cosmetic ingredients, food ingredients (for people and animals), pharmaceuticals, "aroma chemicals", fertilizer, and human and animal "nutrition" (which must mean it manufactures vitamins and minerals).

A few clarifications: BASF is not based in Mannheim, but on the opposite bank of the Rhine in Ludwigshafen. They don't make magnetic storage media anymore, as that part of their business ('BASF Magnetics') was moved into a spinoff company going by the name of Emtec. They kept Magnetics' corporate identity, though.

BASF's central production plant at Ludwigshafen is the largest chemical plant in Germany and the largest employer in all of Rheinland-Pfalz. People from my region commute over distances of more than 150 km to work at BASF. Years ago, a BASF commuters' carpool minibus from Kusel, the town where I went to school, was crushed by a lorry on its way, killing six family fathers on the spot.

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