(1872 - 1942)
Richard Martin Willstätter
was a German chemist whose study of the structure
of chlorophyll and other plant pigments won
him the 1915 Nobel
Prize for Chemistry. He
invented paper chromatography independently
of Mikhail Tsvett.
Willstatter obtained his
doctorate from the University of Munich (1894)
for work on the structure of cocaine. While
serving as an assistant to Adolf von Baeyer
at Munich, he continued research into the
structure of alkaloids and synthesized several.
In 1905, he was given a
professorship at the University of Zurich
and began working on chlorophyll. He elucidated
its structure and showed that the blood pigment
heme bears a structural resemblance to the
porphyrin compound found in chlorophyll.
He was professor of chemistry in the University
of Berlin and director of the Kaiser Wilhelm
Institute at Berlin (1912-1916), where his
investigations revealed the structure of
many of the pigments of flowers and fruits.
When his work was interrupted by the war,
at the behest of Fritz Haber, he turned his
attention to developing a gas mask.
In 1916, Willstatter succeeded
Baeyer at Munich. During the 1920s, he investigated
the mechanisms of enzyme reactions and did
much to establish that enzymes are chemical
substances and not biological organisms.
His view of enzymes as nonprotein in nature
was widely held until disproved in 1930.
Being a Jew, in 1924 he resigned his post
at Munich in protest against anti-Semitic pressures. He continued his work privately,
first in Munich and, from 1939, in Switzerland.
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