Emil Hermann Fischer
October 9, 1852-July 15, 1919
Emil Fischer was born on October 9, 1852, to Lorenz Fischer and Julie Poensgen, in Euskirchen, Cologne. His father, Lorenz, was a successful businessman in the lumber industry. After his schooling, his father wished for him to join the family business; Emil wanted to study physics. After an unsuccessful stint in the lumber industry, Emil went to the University of Bonn to study chemistry in 1871.
In 1872, Fischer transferred to the University of Strasbourg to work under Professor Rose. It was there that Adolf von Baeyer inspired Fischer to study chemistry. His studies at Strasbourg under Rose began in phthalein dyes and culminated with his Ph.D. thesis on fluorescein and orcin-phthalein.
In 1874, just after receiving his Ph.D., he was given a professorship at Strasbourg. He subsequently discovered phenylhydrazine, the first hydrazine base known, and then showed its relationship to hydrazobenzene and to a sulfonic acid described previously by Strecker and Römer.
In 1875, he and von Baeyer moved to the University of Munich. In 1878, he qualified as Privatdozent or "private lecturer", and in 1879, he was appointed Associate Professor of Analytical Chemistry. Also in 1879, he was offered the Chair of Chemistry at Aix-la-Chapelle, but he refused. While in Munich, he continued working hydrazines and, with the help of his cousin Otto, worked out and proved a theory on the constitution of dyes derived from triphenylmethane.
In 1881, he was made Professor of Chemistry by the University of Erlangen. In 1883, he turned down an opportunity to join industrial chemistry by joining Badische Anilin- and Soda-Fabrik. At Erlangen, he studied caffeine and theobromine, eventually finding a way to synthesize them.
Fischer moved to the University of Würzburg to be a Professor of Chemistry in 1888. Also in 1888, he married Agnes Gerlach, with whom he had three sons. She died in 1895. In 1892, he became Chair of Chemistry at the University of Berlin, where he remained until his death in 1919. In 1902, Emil Fischer was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his works with sugars and purines.
Between 1882 and 1906, Emil did much of the definitive work on sugars and purines. He showed that adenine, caffeine, uric acid, guanine, and xanthine all shared a common parent, which he isolated in 1884 and called "purine". Between 1882 and 1896, he produced several artificial derivatives of "purine".
Fischer also began working on sugars in 1884. He established the aldehyde nature of glucose through a series of transformations. He also established the relationship between glucose, fructose, and mannose (which he had discovered in 1888). In 1890, he established the stereochemistry and epimerization of sugars and predicted the isomers of the major sugars (later proven correct by Bijvoet in 1951). That same year, he synthesized glucose, fructose, and mannose, using glycerol as a base.
Fischer also did some work on proteins, mostly between 1899 and 1908. In search of an effective method to separate and identify the amino acids of a protein, he discovered proline and oxyproline. He also examined the synthesis of optically active amino acids, thus establishing the peptide bond, and subsequently began synthesizing oligopeptides. In 1901, he published a work on the hydrolysis of casein.
In 1919, after the loss of two of his three sons (one in World War I and one through suicide), Emil took his own life**. His third son was a Professor of Biochemistry at U Cal Berkeley.
Throughout his life, Fischer was acknowledged as a brilliant scientist, a "thorough experimentor", and a "gifted lecturer and mentor". After his death, the Emil Fischer Memorial Medal was established by the German Chemical Society.
** - One source says he died of cancer
; the rest say he committed suicide. I'm going with the consensus.
http://rhyason.com/~mrplow/EmilFishcer.html (07/10/2002 -- may be typoed; can't load page to check)