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Baeyer, Adolf von

BAEYER, ADOLF VON (1835–1917), German organic chemist and Nobel Prize winner. Baeyer was born in Berlin. His mother was the daughter of J.E. *Hitzig, literature historian and authority on criminal law and his father, Johann Jacob Baeyer, a non-Jewish scientist. Adolf Baeyer made his first chemical discovery – a double carbonate of copper and sodium – when he was 12. He went to Heidelberg, where he came under the influence of his lifelong friend, August Kekulé, the German chemist, with whom he went to Ghent in 1858. In 1860 he returned to Berlin and was appointed professor of organic chemistry at the Gewerbeinstitut (later the Charlottenburg Technische Hochschule). There he worked on the study of uric acid, and began 20 years of research on indigo. This was the basis of synthetic indigo, which eventually completely displaced the natural product, and was the foundation of the German dyestuffs industry. His work on alizarin also led to alizarin dyes, driving the natural pigment off the market. His field then extended into physiological chemistry. In 1872 Baeyer became professor at Strasbourg and in 1875 in Munich, where he continued to teach and experiment until he was 80. His work covered many fields, including acetylenic compounds, strain within chemical molecules, the structure of benzene, the constitution of terpenes, oxygen compounds with quadrivalent oxygen, carbonium compounds, and the relationship between color and chemical constitution. His many papers in chemical journals helped to lay the foundations for the new science of organic chemistry. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1905 for "the advancement of organic chemistry and the chemical industry, through his work on organic dyes and hydroaromatic compounds." His numerous other awards included the Davy Medal of the British Royal Society in 1881 and a German patent of nobility in 1885.


K. Schmorl, Adolf von Baeyer, 18351917 (Ger. 1952), incl. bibl.; T. Levitan, The Laureates (1960), 27–29; Henrich, in: American Chemical Society, Journal of Chemical Education, 7 (1930), 1231–48; Perkin, in: Chemical Society (London), Journal of the Chemical Society, 123 (1923), 1520–46; G. Bugge, Buch der grossen Chemiker, 2 (1930), 321–35, index.