Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.
Sir Robert Robinson
Born: 13 September 1886, Rufford, near Chesterfield, United Kingdom
Died: 8 February 1975, Great Missenden, United Kingdom
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
Prize motivation: "for his investigations on plant products of biological importance, especially the alkaloids."
Prize share: 1/1
Alkaloids are a group of nitrogenous substances that are formed in plants and often have a powerful effect on the human body. They include quinine, cocaine, morphine, strychnine and atropine. Robert Robinson showed that amino acids play an important role in plants' formation of alkaloids. In 1917 he succeeded in synthesizing the troponin alkaloid from three simpler molecules. Previous methods of producing the substance involved complicated reactions in many steps. Robert Robinson's results had significant implications for chemistry, biology and medicine.