Obituary: Durbanite invented Oil of Olay

2008-05-09 00:00

Graham Wulff, the man behind the fairytale cosmetics product, Oil of Olay, has died aged 92.

What became a billion-dollar empire and an internationally recognisable brand, all started in Wulff’s garage in Durban, where he worked as an industrial chemist.

He lost his father at the age of four and was raised by his mother, along with two siblings, on a farm in Highlands North, Johannesburg.

After matric, Wulff began working as a laboratory assistant at Modderfontein dynamite factory.

It was there that he developed a love for science and set his sights on obtaining his B.Sc., which he did in three years by correspondence.

Wulff was promoted, and then moved to the South African Pulp and Paper Industries.

Later he joined the Industrial Development Corporation where he established plants at various wool washeries and began doing research on skin preparations from lanolin, a derivative of woolgrease. Wulff’s efforts in his home laboratory soon paid off, and in 1953 Oil of Olay won popularity first in South Africa, and then worldwide after an international launch in 1959.

Wulff made it into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1999 — Oil of Olay was the biggest-selling skin care preparation in the world.

Wulff is survived by his wife Dinah, six children, 20 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

One of his daughters said despite his fame he was an extremely humble man. "He was generous, with a boyish sense of humour. His grandchildren simply adored him."

Wulff was a pilot, whose hobbies included golf, sailing and ice hockey.

He was also the president of Aero Club of SA, chairman of the Durban Wings Club and chairman of the Beachwood Golf Club.

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