Tadeus Reichstein

Born: July 20, 1897 | Wloclawek, PL
Died: August 1, 1996 | Basel, CH

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, then describes his advanced work at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. 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 on 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.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0040
No. of pages: 34
Minutes: 130

Interview Sessions

Tonja A. Koeppel
22 April 1985
Basel, Switzerland

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. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1920 Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Eidgenössiche Technische Hochschule) Diploma Chemical Engineering
1922 Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Eidgenössiche Technische Hochschule) DIng Chemistry

Professional Experience

1922 to 1929
Consultant for an industrial firm in his own lab at Albisrieden

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Eidgenössiche Technische Hochschule)

1929
Lecturer
1934
Assistant Professor
1937
Associate Professor

University of Basel

1938 to 1950
Head, Pharmaceutical Institute
1938 to 1950
Professor, Pharmaceutical Chemistry
1946 to 1960
Head, Institute of Organic Chemistry
1950 to 1960
Professor, Organic Chemistry

Honors

Year(s) Award
1947

Marcel-Benoist Prize

1950

Nobel Prize

Table of Contents

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 PhD 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.