The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1953
Born: 23 March 1881, Worms, Germany
Died: 8 September 1965, Freiburg im Breisgau, West Germany (now Germany)
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of Freiburg, Breisgau, Germany; Staatliches Institut für makromolekulare Chemie (State Research Institute for Macromolecular Chemistry), Freiburg, Breisgau, Germany
Prize motivation: “for his discoveries in the field of macromolecular chemistry”
Prize share: 1/1
The world around us is made of atoms combined to form molecules. In the early 1900s chemists debated how large these molecules could become. In the early 1920s Herman Staudinger claimed they could be very large; tens or even hundreds of thousands of atoms in size. He showed how small molecules can join to form long chains and so become very large molecules—polymers. The result was the basis for the development of synthetic materials like plastics.