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Tadeus Reichstein

Tadeus Reichstein

Courtesy of John D. Roberts, CHF Collections

  • Born: July 20, 1897, Wloclawek, Poland
  • Died: August 1, 1996, Basel, Switzerland

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0040
Interview Date: April 22, 1985
Location: Basel, Switzerland
Interviewer: Tonja A. Koeppel
No. of pages: 34
Minutes: 90

  Abstract of Interview

In this interview Tadeus Reichstein discusses his long and distinguished career as an organic chemist. He begins by recalling his family and early education in Germany and Switzerland. The interview continues with Reichstein describing his advanced work at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) and recalling his professors and colleagues, especially Staudinger and Ruzicka. In 1938, Reichstein moved to the Pharmaceutical Institute at Basel, and the central portion of the interview focuses on his research leading to the Nobel Prize in 1950. This includes work in Vitamin C synthesis, cortisone and other adrenal hormones, and glycosides. The interview concludes with Reichstein expressing his personal philosophy, his views on the changes in chemistry, and his interest in botany.


1920 Diploma, Chemical Engineering, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule)
1922 D.Ing. Chem. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule)

  Professional Experience

His Own Lab, Albisrieden, (Zürich)

1922 - 1929 Consultant for industrial firm

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Eidgenössiche Technische Hochschule)

1929 - 1934 Lecturer

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Eidgenössiche Technische Hochschule)

1934 - 1937 Assistant Professor

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Eidgenössiche Technische Hochschule)

1937 - 1938 Associate Professor

University of Basel

1938 - 1950 Head, Pharmaceutical Institute

University of Basel

1938 - 1950 Professor, Pharmaceutical Chemistry

University of Basel

1946 - 1960 Head, Institute of Organic Chemistry

University of Basel

1946 - 1967 Professor, Organic Chemistry


1947 Marcel-Benoist Prize
1950 Nobel Prize

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Childhood and Early Education 1

Family moves to Zürich. Early school in Germany. Father's business. Early exposure to chemistry. Language education. Becomes a Swiss citizen.

Education at the ETH 4

ETH curriculum. Physicists. Physics Department and Chemistry Department. H. Staudinger's polymer research. Doctoral work with Staudinger. Research on coffee flavor. R. Kuhn. P. Karrer. L. Ruzicka.

Research and Teaching at the ETH 10

Offered position by Ruzicka. Teaches biochemistry. Begins Vitamin C research. Interactions of Karrer with Ruzicka and Kuhn. Decides to do research in medicinal chemistry. Begins work on adrenal hormones.

The Pharmaceutical Institute, Basel 12

Accepts offer to head Institute. Relations between University and city of Basel. Organizes and obtains support for new Chemical Institute. Heads Institute.

Vitamin C Research 14

Describes early history of Vitamin C. R. Oppenauer begins synthesis of L-ascorbic acid. Reactions of Karrer and Haworth. Synthesizes sorbose using Drosophilia. Patent royalties finance laboratory work.

Adrenal Hormone Research 17

Competition with E. C. Kendall. Adrenal gland extracts. Tests with adrenalectomized animals. Crystallization of aldosterone. B. A. Simpson and J.F. Tait. Correspondence with Wintersteiner. Tests of new "miracle drug" on humans by Kendall and P. Hench. Wins Nobel Prize. Regulatory effects of adrenal gland hormones.

Glycoside Research and Botany 22

Cardiac activity of glycosides. Works with Strophantus. Correlation of chemical structure with botanical classification. Toad venoms.

Personal Views and Other Topics 24

Contacts with American scientists and scientific organizations. Changes language of publications to English. Comments on longevity. New methods of structure determination. Thoughts on animal experiments. Disposition of personal papers.

Notes 28

Index 30

  About the Interviewer

Tonja A. Koeppel

Tonja A. Koeppel received a master's degree in chemistry from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in 1944. Since then she has written about chemistry, done research, and taught college chemistry. Dr. Koeppel is also a historian of chemistry. In 1973 she earned a Ph.D. degree in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania. She is especially interested in the development of organic chemistry in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

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