Adolf von Baeyer


Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Adolf von Baeyer

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Adolf von Baeyer
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1905

Born: 31 October 1835, Berlin, Prussia (now Germany)

Died: 20 August 1917, Starnberg, Germany

Affiliation at the time of the award: Munich University, Munich, Germany

Prize motivation: “in recognition of his services in the advancement of organic chemistry and the chemical industry, through his work on organic dyes and hydroaromatic compounds”

Prize share: 1/1


Adolf von Baeyer was born and raised in Berlin. As a student, he attended several universities, and was taught by several major figures of German chemistry, such as Robert Bunsen and Friedrich Kekulé. As a professor in Munich, Baeyer was involved in issues of educational independence. When industry made demands on universities to make their education more business-oriented, Baeyer argued that scientific studies should not be determined by economic factors.


A new industrial branch developed in the late 1800s, dye manufacturing. Beginning in the 1860s, Adolf von Baeyer performed a series of studies on the chemistry of dyes. These led to the production of several dyes from coal tar. The most important of these was the blue dye indigo, which, thanks to von Baeyer, could now be produced industrially instead of being extracted from plants. This made it much less expensive to produce. Another group of dyes von Baeyer studied were phthaleins.

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