Childhood & Early Life
He was born on November 10, 1918, in Solln near Munich, Germany, to Dr. Karl Tobias Fischer and his wife, Valentine Danzer as their third child. His father was a Professor of Physics at the ‘Technical College of Munich’.
He attended elementary school for four years and then enrolled at the ‘Theresiengymnasium’, the oldest grammar school in Munich in 1929 from where he completed his graduation in 1937 with Abitur.
While he was on his two years of compulsory military service, the ‘World War II’ started that saw him serving in France, Poland and Russia.
He started studying chemistry at the ‘Technical University of Munich’ during the later part of 1941 while he was on a military study leave. After the Americans released him in the autumn of 1945, he resumed his studies in 1946 following reopening of the ‘Technical University of Munich’ and completed BS in Chemistry from the university in 1949.
He was inducted in the Inorganic Chemistry Institute at the ‘Technical University of Munich’ as a scientific assistant of Professor Walter Hieber, who was considered father of metal carbonyl chemistry. Under the guidance of Hieber, Fischer worked on his doctoral thesis titled ‘The Mechanisms of Carbon Monoxide Reactions of Nickel (II) Salts in the Presence of Dithionites and Sulfoxylates’ and earned PhD in 1952.
Accepting invitation of Hieber, he continued his research work at the college and went on to focus his studies on transition of metal and organometallic chemistry. Through his university lecture thesis, ‘The Metal Complexes of Cyclopentadienes and Indenes’, he pointed out that the molecular structure of ferrocene assumed by Pauson and Keally might be incorrect.
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In 1955 he was inducted as a Lecturer of Chemistry at the ‘Technical University of Munich’. The following year saw him completing a scientific sojourn of several months in the US.
He developed a new procedure of synthesizing metals and organic substances. In 1955 Fischer displayed that organometallic compounds, which at present are applied extensively in biological research works as also in industry, could be formed of molecules, a notion thought of to be impossible earlier.
He ascertained the structure of ferrocene, became successful in synthesizing dibenzolchrome from CrCl3 and C6H6 in presence of AlCl3 and came up with a procedure of synthesis of the arene derivatives.
The arenecyclopentadienyl, arenecarbonyl and other mixed π-complexes of the transition elements were first obtained by him. He displayed that when heated these compounds break up to form a ‘metallic mirror’ that can be applied to procure ultrapure metals.
Fischer was the first one to synthesize many organometallic compounds of the transuranium and technetium elements.
From 1957 to 1959 he remained a Professor at the University of Munich. He refused an offer of the Chair of Inorganic Chemistry at the ‘University of Jena’ and became Senior Professor at the University of Munich in 1959. He held such position till 1964.
He turned down an offer from the ‘University of Marburg’ in 1960 for the post of Senior Professor in the university’s Department of Inorganic Chemistry.
From 1964 to 1984 he remained a Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at the ‘Technical University of Munich’ and during that tenure he also held the Chair of Inorganic Chemistry in the university succeeding Professor Hieber.
In 1964 he was able to obtain stable carbene complexes of the transition elements. One of the two types of metal carbene complexes that features strong π-acceptors at the metal and which are electrophilic at the carbene carbon atom are named as ‘Fischer carbanes’ after him. That year he was elected at the ‘Bavarian Academy of Sciences’ as a member of its Mathematics/Natural Science section.
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The ‘Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina’ of Germany inducted him as one of its members in 1969. That year he worked as Firestone Lecturer at the ‘University of Wisconsin –Madison’.
In 1971 he became the first Inorganic Chemistry Pacific West Coast Lecturer. He also remained Visiting Professor at the ‘University of Florida’ in Gainesville that year.
The Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy of the ‘University of Munich’ conferred upon him an honorary doctorate in 1972.
In 1973 he obtained stable carbine complexes of the transition elements. In spring of that year he served as the Arthur D. Little Visiting Professor at the ‘Massachusetts Institute of Technology’ in Massachusetts.
He also remained Visiting Distinguished Lecturer at the ‘University of Rochester’ in Rochester for a while.
He toured around the world including the US, Soviet Union, Australia, Israel, Brazil and Venezuela among others lecturing on metallic complexes of cyclopentadienes and indenes, mono-, di- and oligo-olefins, metal-π-complexes of six-ringed aromatics, metalcarbonyl carbene and carbyne complexes.
He trained legion of PhD and postdoctoral students and many of them achieved great heights in their careers.
Over the years around 450 scientific articles were published by him. He authored two books namely ‘Metal Pi-complexes: Complexes with Di-and Oligo-olefinic Ligands’ along with H. Werner, which was published by ‘Elsevier Science Ltd’ in July 1966; and ‘Transition Metal Carbene Complexes’ along with Karl Heinz Dötz, which was published by ‘Verlag Chemie’ in 1983.
He was a Foreign Member of ‘American Academy of Arts and Sciences’.