The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1907
Born: 20 May 1860, Munich, Bavaria (now Germany)
Died: 13 August 1917, Focsani, Romania
Affiliation at the time of the award: Landwirtschaftliche Hochschule (Agricultural College), Berlin, Germany
Prize motivation: “for his biochemical researches and his discovery of cell-free fermentation”
Prize share: 1/1
Eduard Buchner was born in Munich, where he also studied at the Bavarian Botanical Institute. Among his instructors were Adolf von Baeyer and Emil Fischer (Chemistry Laureates in 1905 and 1902). During his career, Buchner worked at various German universities, including in Kiel, Tübingen and Würzburg. At the time he was at the Agricultural University of Berlin. During World War I, Buchner worked at a front line hospital in Romania, where he was wounded and died.
During the 19th century it was discovered that microorganisms were behind biochemical processes, such as fermentation, which is caused by microscopic fungi. This raised questions about whether such processes were a manifestation of a special life force that existed only with living matter. In 1897 Eduard Buchner discovered that yeast extract with no living yeast fungi can form alcohol from a sugar solution. The conclusion was that biochemical processes do not necessarily require living cells, but are driven by special substances, enzymes, formed in cells.