Richard Kuhn Biography


Birthday: December 3, 1900 (Sagittarius)

Born In: Vienna, Austria-Hungary

Richard Kuhn was one of the most distinguished and successful biochemists of the 20th century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1938 for his work on Vitamins and carotenoids. Being a German national, he was forbidden by the Nazis to receive the Nobel Prize so he received his diploma and Gold Medal after the World War II ended. He also discovered the nerve agent ‘Soman’, a highly toxic chemical, which is used as a weapon for mass destruction. Kuhn's areas of research covered theoretical problems of organic chemistry as well as extensive fields in biochemistry such as carotenoids, flavins, vitamins and enzymes). He also carried out very significant research on vitamin B2 and the antidermatitis vitamin B6.
Quick Facts

German Celebrities Born In December

Died At Age: 66


Spouse/Ex-: Daisy Hartmann

father: Richard Clemens Kuhn

mother: Angelika Rodler

Chemists Biochemists

Died on: August 1, 1967

place of death: Heidelberg, West Germany

More Facts

awards: Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1938)
Goethe Prize (1942)
Wilhelm Exner Medal (1952)

Childhood & Early Life
Richard Kuhn was born in Vienna on December 3, 1900. His father, Richard Clemens Kuhn, was an Engineer while his mother, Angelika Rodler, was an Elementary school teacher.
He did his schooling from the ‘Gymnasium’ (the Grammar school).
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Richard Kuhn studied Chemistry at the Vienna University and received his PhD from the University of Munich under R. Willstatter in 1922.
In 1925, he worked at Munich University as a lecturer of Chemistry.
In 1926, he was invited by the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschulein Zurich, where he took the post of Professor of Analytical Chemistry and worked there till 1929.
In 1930, he became the Principal of the Institute of Chemistry at the newly founded Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut (KWI) for Medical Research in Heidelberg
In 1937, he also took over the administration of this institute in succession to L. Von Krehl.
In addition to the above, he also served as the Head of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Heidelberg. He was also a visiting Professor for one year at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia at the department of Psychological Chemistry.
Kuhn investigated theoretical problems of organic chemistry and extensive areas in biochemistry carotenoids, flavins, vitamins and enzymes.
He investigated the structure of compounds related to carotenoids, the fat-soluble yellow coloring agents which are widely distributed in nature.
He discovered 8 carotenoids, prepared them in pure form and determined their constitution. He discovered that among them, one was necessary for the fertilization of a certain algae.
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With Paul Karrer, he worked on Vitamin B2 and was the first to isolate a gram of it. With his team, he also isolated Vitamin B6.
Awards & Achievements
Richard Kuhn received the prestigious Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1938 for his ‘Investigations in Carotenoids and Vitamins.
In 1952, he received the Wilhelm Exner Medal.
He was awarded several honorary degrees from Technische Hochschule in Munich (1960), the University of Vienna (1960) and the University of St. Maria Brazil (1961).
He was the President of the Society of German Chemists and Vice President of the Max Planck Society.
He was also associated with the board of ‘Badische Anilin und Soda-Fabrik’.
From 1948, he was an editor of the journal ‘Justus Liebigs Annalan der Chemie’ (Justus Liebig’s Annals of Chemistry).
Personal Life & Legacy
Richard Kuhn married Daisy Hartmann in 1928 and they had two sons and four daughters.
He died on 31st July 1967 at Heidelberg, West Germany, at the age of 66.
Richard Kuhn is said to be a strong supporter of the Nazis and assisted to develop Mass Destruction Chemical Weapons for them. It is also said that he was responsible for betraying and prosecution of 3 of his fellow Jewish Scientists. This came in public domain nearly after 30 years of his death. In 2005, as a result of historic research, the Society of German Chemists decided to discontinue the ‘Richard Kuhn award’ which they used to honor every year to the top performing German scientist.

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