Tadeusz Reichstein Biography
Tadeusz Reichstein was a Polish born Swiss chemist who along with Philip S. Hench and Edward C. Kendall, received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1950. The trio won the coveted award for their discoveries concerning hormones of the adrenal cortex. Reichstein was born into a Jewish family in Poland and migrated to Switzerland as a child. He was educated in Zurich and became interested in chemistry as a school student. After graduating from high school he began studying chemistry at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (E.T.H.) and completed his diploma. After working in the industry for a while he started working on his doctorate under Professor H. Staudinger with whom he would later research on the composition of the flavoring substances in roasted coffee. He researched for many years on the aromatic substances in chicory and published a series of papers on this subject. Eventually he qualified as a lecturer at the E.T.H. In the ensuing years he collaborated with E. C. Kendall and P. S. Hench in their seminal work on the hormones of the adrenal cortex. This research ultimately led to the isolation of cortisone and the discovery of its therapeutic value in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Tadeusz Reichstein was born on 20 July 1897, in Włocławek, Kingdom of Poland, to Isidor Reichstein, an engineer, and his wife Gastava Brockmann. His Jewish parents named their son after a Polish national hero, Tadeusz Kościuszko.
- The family moved to Switzerland when Reichstein was a young boy. He received his primary education from a private tutor and later went to the Oberrealschule (technical school of junior college grade).
- From a young age he was inclined towards scientific pursuits and was especially interested in chemistry. After graduating from high school in 1916, he began studying chemistry at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (E.T.H.) at Zurich and completed his diploma in 1920.
- After spending a year in the industry, he began work on his doctorate under Professor H. Staudinger. Following his graduation in 1922 he started doing his research on the composition of the flavoring substances in roasted coffee.
- He received funding for his research from an industrial firm and continued working on the aroma of coffee. His studies led to the finding that the flavor of coffee is composed of extremely complex substances which include derivatives of furan and pyrrole.
- He qualified as a lecturer at the E.T.H. in 1929 following which he embarked on an academic career. He taught organic and physiological chemistry and in 1931, was appointed an assistant to Professor L. Ruzicka.
- After his research on coffee and chicory ended, he devoted himself to research in other fields. In 1934, he was appointed Titular Professor, and became the Professor in Pharmaceutical Chemistry in 1938. The same year he also became the Director of the Pharmaceutical Institute in the University of Basel.
- He began his research on the hormones of the adrenal cortex in 1934. Up to that time scientists had successfully obtained adrenal cortex extract and had sustained the lives of two animals after adrenalectomy by injections of the extract.
- Tadeusz Reichstein, in collaboration with E. C. Kendall and P. S. Hench, took forward the research on the adrenal cortex extract. Reichstein used chromatography for isolating and identifying new substances in the extract and was successful in isolating about 29 hormones and determining their structure and chemical composition.
- Cortisone, one of the hormones the trio isolated, was later discovered to be an anti-inflammatory agent with therapeutic value that could be useful in the treatment of arthritis. Another hormone, desoxycorticosterone, was used for many years to treat Addison’s disease.
- In 1946 he became the professor of organic chemistry at the University of Basel, a post he held until 1967. He had a great love for botany as well and in his later years he researched on the phytochemistry and cytology of ferns.
- In addition to his academic career he was an honorary member of more than ten scientific societies and the author or co-author of 635 papers.
- Tadeusz Reichstein, in collaboration with E. C. Kendall and P. S. Hench, performed vital research on the hormones of the adrenal cortex, their structures, and their biologic effects. They isolated about 29 hormones, including cortisone, and determined their structure and chemical composition.
- In 1947 he became the recipient of the Marcel Benoist Prize which is often dubbed the "Swiss Nobel Prize."
- Tadeusz Reichstein, along with E. C. Kendall and P. S. Hench, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1950 "for their discoveries relating to the hormones of the adrenal cortex, their structure and biological effects".
- In 1968, he received the Copley Medal "In recognition of his distinguished work on the chemistry of vitamin C and his authoritative studies of the cortico-steroids".
- He married Henriette Louise Quarles van Ufford in 1927. The couple was blessed with one daughter.
- An outstanding scientist, he was also active in community work during and after the World War II. During the war he provided help for refugees from German occupied countries and helped poor students in their studies after the war.
- Tadeusz Reichstein lived a long life and remained active well into his nineties. He died on 1 August 1996, at the age of 99.
- He was the longest-lived Nobel laureate at the time of his death.
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