Blog Series on Chemistry Nobel Laureates (Continued from


Hermann Emil Fischer

Born: 9th  October 1852, Euskirchen, in Germany, Died: 15th  July 1919, Berlin, Germany.

Hermann Emil Fischer won the  second Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 1902, he received the Nobel Prize "in recognition of the extraordinary services rendered by his work on sugar and purine syntheses". He was working at Berlin University in  Germany at the time of receiving this award.

In 1877 Emil Fischer prepared a wonderful compound called  phenyl hydrazine, which was useful for the determination of structure of  sugar molecules. This was an extra-ordinary contribution for the carbohydrates area.  Fischer produced several artificial sugars and determined their molecular structures.

 Another group of nitrogenous substances with important biological functions is purines. Emil Fischer showed that purines form the caffeine which is found in coffee and its equivalents in tea. He developed separation  and identification methods for  the individual amino acids and discovered  cyclic amino acids like  proline and oxyproline. Fischer also introduced the word peptide bond which is responsible to combine two amino acids and also the synthesis of   di- tri-, tetra- and polypeptides.

 Phenomenal keenness of mind and flash-like comprehension were characteristic of Emil Fischer. The salient quality of his life was unswerving singleness of purpose as a researcher. He possessed a remarkable memory despite his constant ailments caused by phenylhydrazine and mercury poisoning which are part of his scientific research. Before one day of his death, he sent off his last two papers, most notably dealing with sugars and also spent time with his  lawyer to finalize his testament on the ‘‘Emil Fischer Foundation’’ which shows his style of planning things.

With five  elder sisters, Fischer was the only son of Laurenz Fischer and Julie Poensgen Fischer. His father wanted him to enter the family business as timber merchant. This occupation proved uncongenial and, at 19 he was finally allowed to follow his inclination to study mathematics, physics, and chemistry at the University of Bonn along with his cousin Otto Fischer. Fischer was married and had three sons, two of whom died during World War I. These losses, combined with a diagnosis of terminal cancer, led to his death in 1919. 


(Nobel Series on Chemistry to be continued...)