Georg Wittig Biography
(German Chemist and One of the Winners of the 1979 Nobel Prize in Chemistry)
Birthday: June 16, 1897 (Gemini)
Born In: Berlin, Germany
Georg Wittig was a German chemist who won a share of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1979. He developed a method for synthesis of alkenes from aldehydes and ketones using compounds called phosphonium ylides which later came to be known as the Wittig reaction. The son of a professor, he developed an early love for science and started studying chemistry at the University of Tübingen in 1916. The ongoing World War I, however, interrupted his studies and he was drafted into the army. His military experience was traumatic and he was taken a prisoner of war by the British forces in 1918. He was released the next year but faced considerable trouble in resuming his studies as the universities in Germany were already overcrowded. In desperation, he made a plea to the professor for organic chemistry at the University of Marburg, Karl von Auwers, who accepted the young man into the institution. Wittig was an intelligent and hardworking student who after three years of rigorous studies was awarded the Ph.D. in organic chemistry. On the advice of his mentor, von Auwers, he ventured into an academic career. After working at the TU Braunschweig and the University of Freiburg, he eventually succeeded the head of the organic chemistry department Wilhelm Schlenk at the University of Tübingen.