Hermann Emil Fischer
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1902
Born: 9 October 1852, Euskirchen, Prussia (now Germany)
Died: 15 July 1919, Berlin, Germany
Affiliation at the time of the award: Berlin University, Berlin, Germany
Prize motivation: “in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by his work on sugar and purine syntheses”
Prize share: 1/1
Emil Fischer was born in Euskirchen, near Cologne, Germany. His father wanted him to work with the family business, but after having tried it for a while, Fischer’s father agreed to allow his son to study science. In 1874 he received his PhD at the University of Strasbourg under the leadership of Adolf von Baeyer, 1905 Chemistry Laureate, and eventually he became a professor in Berlin. Fischer's work synthesizing food was part of a broader development of artificial materials, in which researchers and industry collaborated.
Carbohydrates, including sugar, are crucial to the biological processes of living organisms. In 1877 Emil Fischer produced phenylhydrazine, a base that helped reveal sugar molecules' structures. Fischer was able to produce several sugars artificially and to map the structure of their molecules. Another group of substances with important biological functions is nitrogenous compounds, or purines. Fischer showed that purines form the caffeine found in coffee and its equivalents in tea and cacao.