Willstaetter Richard
Country Germany
Category Chemistry
Year 1915

Willstaetter Richard, 1872 - 1942, Year won 1915, one of the giants of twentieth century's organic chemistry and biochemistry..

Richard Willstaetter was born in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 1872. He studied chemistry and in 1902 became a professor at the University of Munich. In 1905 he moved to the Zurich Technicum and in 1915 he was appointed director of the Imperial Institute of Chemistry in Berlin. He returned to the University of Munich in 1916, replacing his late teacher, Adolf von Baeyer.

In 1925 Willstaetter resigned his teaching position in protest over anti-Semitism in the teaching faculty. With the rise of Nazism his property was confiscated, but he was allowed to move in 1939 to Switzerland, where he lived until his death in 1942.

Richard Willstaetter was awarded the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1915, “for his researches on plant pigments, especially chlorophyll.”

His chief contribution was in the acknowledgment of the biological significance of natural substances. He decoded the structure of various alkaloids, particularly those of the tropine group. His greatest achievement was the decoding of the complex structure of chlorophyll and the process of photosynthesis. Willstaetter was a pioneer in enzyme research, which he viewed as the key to understanding the complex processes of life.

Richard Willstaetter advocated liberalism and humanism and he saw in their realization the moral value of science, which, in his view, was designed to right the wrongs of human society.

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