• Richard Martin Willstätter worked on chlorophyll, haemoglobin and anthocyanes, the colouring matter of flowers and fruits. His investigations into plant pigments, especially the work on chlorophyll, honoured by the award of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry  for the year 1915.  
  • Willstätter discovered that the chlorophyll of different plant species is the same, but it is a mixture of two different types, which he produced in pure form. He showed that magnesium is an essential part of chlorophyll's structure and pointed out chlorophyll's relationship with the hemoglobin in red blood cells. The leaves of green plants derive their color from chlorophyll, which plays a key role in enabling plants to transform water and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates and oxygen with the help of sunlight a phemonenon called photosynthesis. The investigations into photosynthesis and into the nature and activity of the enzymes were precursory of modern Biochemistry. He achieved the first synthesis of cyclo-octatetraene.
  • Willstätter’s general area of research was natural products chemistry and organic chemistry. He has extensively worked on structure and synthesis of plant alkaloids such as atropine and cocaine also on quinone and quinone type compounds which are the basis of many dyestuffs.
  • Richard Martin Willstätter was born in Karlsruhe in Baden on August 13, 1872, and completed his school education in Karlsruhe and Nuremberg. He joined in University of Munich at the age of 18 under Baeyer and stayed there for the following fifteen years. Latter, he became Extraordinary Professor as the successor of J. Thiele. He then accepted the first offer of a Professorial Chair (1905) at the Federal Technical College, Zurich. After 7 years of stay in Swiss, came back to Germany, Institute of Chemistry in Berlin/Dahlem in 2012. In 2015 he returned back to University of Munich and again, as successor to his old teacher Adolf von Baeyer. Willstätter's career came to a tragic end when, as a gesture against increasing antisemitism, he announced his retirement in 1924.

           Contributed by Dr M Chandrasekharam, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad