Birthday: October 9, 1852
Died At Age: 66
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Franz Joseph Emil Fischer, Emil Hermann Fischer
Born in: Euskirchen
Famous as: Chemist
Died on: July 15, 1919
place of death: Berlin
Cause of Death: Suicide
education: University of Bonn, University of Strasbourg
awards: 1902 - Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Elliott Cresson Medal
Emil Fischer was a renowned German chemist of the nineteenth century who did pioneering work in the field of organic chemistry. Hailing from a business oriented family, Fischer’s life would have been radically different had he given into the will of his father, who wanted his only son to succeed his business. But with his determination, he completed his education from reputed institutes like University of Bonn and University of
Strasbourg. His mentor Adolph von Baeyer developed Emil’s interest in organic chemistry and the latter went on to win a Nobel Prize for his contribution to the field. Though his very first discovery, a derivative of hydrazine was dismissed by many as a mere fluke, he silenced his critics with his further discoveries. The caffeine which is the main ingredient in beverages like coffee, was first discovered by this eminent chemist. He identified the class of compounds similar to caffeine and named them as purines. He was also involved in significant research work related to sugars, proteins and enzymes. The renowned scientist has left behind a great scientific legacy and many of his theories and concepts such as the ‘Fischer Projection’ method and ‘Fischer esterification’ still hold good. Read on the following biography to know more about the life and works of this great scientific mind.
Childhood & Early Life
Herman Emil Louis Fischer was born on 9 October, 1852 to Laurenz and Julie Fischer in the Euskirchen town of Germany. Laurenz was a successful entrepreneur dealing in the lumber industry.
Louis was initially home tutored and later enrolled in school; he completed his schooling from the cities ofWetzlar and Bonn. After appearing for his final examinations in 1869, wherein he performed exceptionally, the bright mind wanted to pursue higher studies.
As the only living child of his parents he was expected to join the family business. But eventually his father agreed to let him pursue the study of natural sciences. Hence in 1871, Fischer was enrolled at the ‘University of Bonn’.
Initially inclined to specialize in physics, he moved to the ‘University of Strasbourg’ in 1872, along with his cousin Otto Fischer; who would later become his research partner.
At Strasbourg, his encounter with the director of chemical institute, Adolph von Baeyer sparked his lifelong interest in chemistry. Baeyer was credited with the discovery of phthalein dyes and Emil worked under him during his doctoral studies.
In 1874, he was awarded a Ph.D. in chemistry and his doctoral dissertation delved into study of organic compounds fluorescein and orcin-phthalein.
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In 1874, he was offered the position of a research assistant at the ‘University of Strasbourg’. It was while working as an assistant in the organic chemistry laboratory under von Baeyer, that he discovered the first hydrazine derivative compound, phenylhydrazine.
In 1875, following the discovery of phenylhydrazine, Emil accompanied von Baeyer to the ‘University of Munich’ as an assistant. Three years later he was conferred upon the title of Privatdozent, which allowed him to teach university level courses.
In 1879, the ‘University of Munich’ offered him the position of Associate Professor of Analytical Chemistry. During his time at the university, he was devoted to the study of hydrazines. Along with Otto Fischer, the duo worked on demonstrating the constitution of chemical derivatives of triphenylmethane.
The ‘University of Erlangen’ offered Fischer the position of a professor of chemistry in 1881. It was here that he studied the compounds in tea and coffee and explained the molecular structures of compounds like caffeine and theobromine. He named this class of compounds as “purines” and even synthesised them artificially.
He went to the ‘University of Würzburg’ in 1885 and took up the job of a professor in chemistry; a position he would hold for the next eight years.
He continued his research work on purines and discovered that this family of bases even constituted the DNA.
Fischer then embarked on a study of sugars and devised the ‘Fischer Projection’ method to depict their molecular structure on a 2-D surface such as paper.
In continuation to his study of sugars, he studied the fermentation caused in sugar by enzymatic action. His ground-breaking work on organic compounds including purines and sugars earned him the Nobel Prize in the year 1902.
This eminent chemist then embarked on the study of proteins and deduced that the amino acids in proteins are linked by what are known as “peptide bonds”. He chemically synthesised artificial protein by linking amino acids with the amide bonds to scientifically prove his inferences.
Emil Fischer was a renowned name in the world of chemistry and his work on the family of bases named purines, and sugars earned him a Nobel Prize. The ‘Fischer Projection’ method of representing the molecular structure of sugar was also devised by this eminent chemist.
Awards & Achievements
The world-renowned chemist was honoured with a Nobel Prize in 1902 for his contribution to the world of organic chemistry.
He was also presented with the ‘Prussian Order of Merit’ and ‘Maximilian Order for Arts and Sciences’.
Personal Life & Legacy
Emil exchanged the nuptial vows with Agnes Gerlach in 1888 and the couple had three sons.
On 15 July 1919, this eminent chemist ended his life by overdosing on phenylhydrazine.
He is the eponym of several chemical reactions and concepts including the ‘Fischer projection’, ‘Fischer oxazolesynthesis’ and ‘Fischer peptide synthesis’