(Continued from www.scienceindia.in/home/view_blog/23)

Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Adolfvon Baeyer

Born: October 31, 1835 in Berlin, Germany; Died: August 20, 1917 in Starnberg, Germany

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the year 1905 was awarded to Adolf von Baeyer in recognition of his services in the advancement of organic chemistry and the chemical industry, through his work on organic dyes and hydroaromatic compounds. Baer was attached with  Munich University, Munich, Germany at the time of receiving the Nobel Prize. Adolf von Baeyer received his doctoral degree under  the supervision of Friedrich August Kekulé.

Baeyer was born in Berlin as the son of Johann Jacob Baeyer  and Eugenie Hitzig. Baeyer had four sisters and two brothers.  Baeyer lost his mother at young age while she was giving birth to his sister Adelaide and he did not enjoy his mother’s love and affection during his childhood.

Although his birth name was Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Adolf Baeyer, he was known simply as Adolf Baeyer. The poet Adelbert von Chamisso and the astronomer Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel were his mentors.

Baeyer charted his own path into science early on, performing experiments on plant nutrition at his paternal grandfather’s Müggelsheim farm as a boy; back in the confines of Berlin, he took to the test tubes with chemical experimentation starting at the age of nine. Three years later, he synthesized a previously unknown chemical compound double carbonate of copper and sodium. On his 13th  birthday, he initiated his lifework, buying a chunk of indigo worth two talers for his first dye experiments.

A new industrial branch developed in the late 1800s, dye manufacturing. Beginning in the 1860s, Adolf von Baeyer performed a series of studies on the chemistry of dyes. These led to the production of several dyes from coal tar. The most important of these was the blue dye indigo, which, thanks to von Baeyer, could now be produced industrially instead of being extracted from plants. This made it much less expensive to produce.