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Adolf von Baeyer

(1835 - 1917)

Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Adolf von Baeyer, known as Adolph von Baeyer, was the first Jew to ever receive the Nobel Prize. Baeyer was a German chemist, acknowledged in 1905 for synthesizing dye indigo. He was also awarded the Davie Medal by the Royal Society of London in 1881, for his work with indigo.

Baeyer was born on October 31, 1835, in Berlin, Germany. Initially, at the Berlin University, Baeyer studied mathematics and physics. Nevertheless, he soon discovered his passion for chemistry and transferred to Heidelberg to study with Robert Bunsen in 1856. Bunsen was a famous chemist, who is best known for perfecting the burner. In Heidelberg, Baeyer studied in the laboratory of August Kekule, a famous organic chemist. In 1858, Baeyer received his doctorate in chemistry from Berlin University. In 1871, he became a Professor at Strasbourg and, in 1875, Baeyer became the Chemistry Professor at the University of Munich.

In addition to synthesizing dye indigo, some of Baeyer’s other achievements include the discovery of the phthanein dyes, investigation of polyacetylenes, oxonium salts, and uric acid derivatives. Bayer synthesized barbituic acid in 1864. This acid is used in surgery as a sedative or hypnotic. Baeyer is also renowned for his work in theoretical chemistry, developing the ‘strain’ (Spannung) theory of triple bonds and the strain theory in small carbon rings. Baeyer was also the founder of Baeyer Chemical Co.

Adolf von Baeyer died on August 20, 1917, in Starnberg.

Sources: Wikipedia; "Adolf von Baeyer"; "Adolf von Baeyer Biography". Photo courtesy of General Anaesthesia