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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Nobel Laureate: Adolf von Baeyer


The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1905.

"in recognition of his services in the advancement of organic chemistry and the chemical industry, through his work on organic dyes and hydroaromatic compounds"

Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Adolf von Baeyer (1835 - 1917) won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on the preparation of organic dyes from coal tar.

His most notable achievement was the synthesis of indigo dye and determination of its structure. A cheap industrial synthesis of indigo was soon developed, freeing Europe from its dependence on indigo from India.

He was also the first person to synthesize phenolphthalein, the well-known acid or base indicator.

The presentation speech highlights the importance of the relationship between basic science and industry.
Nobel Laureates
The complex and unique composition of indigo, however, made this also one of the hardest of tasks. Here there could be no question of one of those casual discoveries, which by happy accident seem to achieve half the work. Years of work were required for even von Baeyer's acumen and experimental skill to achieve the necessary insight into the pigment's chemical composition and to be able to manufacture it from simpler constituents. Even after the purely scientific part of the work had been completed it still took a number of years to make the results obtained from research applicable to technology.

Von Baeyer succeeded in producing indigo synthetically in three principal ways, namely from ortho-nitrophenylacetic acid, from ortho-nitrocinnamic acid and from ortho-nitrobenzaldehyde and acetone. This paved the way for the reproduction of indigo from raw material obtainable without much difficulty from coal tar. And if the problem of producing indigo industrially has now been solved from the technical as well as the economic point of view, this is entirely due to von Baeyer's basic work in the fields in question.

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1 comment :

  1. nice to know that you can synthesize color from coal tar, but it's not nice to know that food colorings added to your snacks are from tar!