The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1902
Hermann Emil Fischer
was born on October 9, 1852, at Euskirchen, in the Cologne
district. His father was a successful business man. After three years with a private tutor, Emil went to the local school and then
spent two years at school at Wetzlar, and two more at Bonn where he passed his final examination in 1869 with great
distinction. His father wished him to enter the family lumber business, but Emil wished to study the natural sciences,
especially physics and, after an unsuccessful trial of Emil in the business, his father - who, according to the laureate's
autobiography, said that Emil was too stupid to be a business man and had better be a student - sent him in 1871 to the
University of Bonn to study chemistry. There he attended the lectures of Kekulé, Engelbach and Zincke, and also those of
August Kundt on physics, and of Paul Groth on mineralogy.
In 1872, however, Emil, who still wished to study physics, was persuaded by his cousin Otto Fischer, to go with him to the
newly established University of Strasbourg, where Professor Rose was working on the Bunsen method of analysis. Here
Adolf von Baeyer
, under whose influence he finally decided to devote his life to chemistry. Studying under von
Baeyer, Fischer worked on the phthalein dyes which Rose had discovered and in 1874 he took his Ph.D. at Strasbourg with a
thesis on fluoresceine and orcin-phthalein. In the same year he was appointed assistant instructor at Strasbourg University
and here he discovered the first hydrazine base, phenylhydrazine and demonstrated its relationship to hydrazobenzene and to
a sulphonic acid described by Strecker and Römer. The discovery of phenylhydrazine, reputed to have been accidental, was
related to much of Fischer's later work.
In 1875 von Baeyer was asked to succeed Liebig at the University of Munich and Fischer went there with him to become an
assistant in organic chemistry.
In 1878 Fischer qualified as a Privatdozent at Munich, where he was appointed Associate Professor of Analytical Chemistry in
1879. In the same year he was offered, but refused, the Chair of Chemistry at Aix-la-Chapelle. In 1881 he was appointed