Heinrich Wieland

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Heinrich Otto Wieland

Heinrich Otto Wieland (born June 4, 1877 in Pforzheim ; † August 5, 1957 in Munich ) was a German chemist and Nobel Prize winner for chemistry .


Heinrich Wieland was the son of a wealthy, liberal entrepreneurial family from Pforzheim in Baden. His father, a chemist, bought a precious metal refinery after the war of 1870/71 . Inspired by this, Wieland began to study chemistry at the University of Munich in 1896 and received his doctorate in 1901 under Johannes Thiele .

He completed his habilitation in 1905 with a thesis on nitrogen oxides . In addition to teaching in Munich, he worked as a consultant and expert for many years. As a result, he remained connected to the chemical-pharmaceutical factory CH Boehringer Sohn in Ingelheim am Rhein for a lifetime.

Initially indispensable, Wieland was called up for military service from March 1917 . In 1917/18 Wieland headed the department for warfare agent synthesis at Fritz Haber's Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry in Berlin-Dahlem, where he developed warfare agents such as mustard gas ( mustard ) and the so-called “ mask breakers ”. During this time, he was offered a professorship at the TH Munich . So he became a commuter between Munich and Berlin.

In 1921 Wieland was appointed professor at the University of Freiburg and in the winter semester of 1925/26 at the University of Munich as the successor to Richard Willstätter . He did research in the field of alkaloids , especially strychnine , which was then made from the neaf nut . From 1933 he intensified research on Indian arrow poison . Since these research areas were classified as important to the war effort during the Nazi era , several attempts to denounce him were not pursued further during this time. From 1939 he was also able to accept around 25 so-called “ half-Jews ” as “guests of the privy council” in his working group. Among them was Hans Conrad Leipelt , to whose discharge he testified in court. Hildegard Hamm-Brücher , who received her doctorate from him in 1945, and Mirjam David were also under his protection .

In 1908 he married Josephine Bartmann from Munich. They had three sons and a daughter: Wolfgang, doctor of pharmaceutical chemistry, Theodor , chemistry professor at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main and Otto, medicine professor at the University of Munich. His daughter Eva married Feodor Lynen , Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Munich and Nobel Prize Winner for Physiology / Medicine .


His first focus from 1912 on was work on cholic acid , cholesterol and a toad poison . The drug Cadechol goes back to his initiative. He was able to definitively explain the structure of steroids and thus laid the foundations for many cardiac agents. Wieland received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1927 (" For his research on the composition of bile acid and related substances ").

During the First World War, Wieland perfected chemical warfare agents such as mustard and developed so-called “ mask breakers ”. In Freiburg, his research focus was on alkaloids . His contacts to Boehringer / Ingelheim were probably also the trigger for his work on strychnine . Despite the high manufacturing price , it was a popular poison for rats and mice , especially during the rat plagues of World War II . Until 1949, Wieland and his colleagues paid special attention to the accompanying alkaloid Vomicin , which is obtained from the production of strychnine from the peanut nut.

Another research focus since 1933 was the Indian arrow poison Calebassen- Curare . It was introduced into surgical practice in 1942; this made interventions in the body cavities and the central nervous system possible.

Early on, he also began researching the Lobelia alkaloid, an active ingredient in the North American plant Lobelia inflata , also known as Indian tobacco . Wieland succeeded in isolating this active ingredient, which Boehringer then launched on the market in 1921 as a breath analeptic under the name "Lobelin - Ingelheim". Further research by two Wieland students led in 1937 at the Boehringer company to the first fully feasible full synthesis of the active ingredient lobeline on an industrial scale .

Wieland's students included the chemist Franz Gottwalt Fischer .

From the 16th edition he took over the editing of the textbook and internship book The Practice of the Organic Chemist , which Ludwig Gattermann had founded. After his death, his son Theodor Wieland continued the work.


In 1921 he was elected a corresponding member of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and an extraordinary member of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences . In 1925 this status changed to a foreign member. In 1925 he was elected a member of the Leopoldina and a full member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences . In 1927 he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 1929 he was admitted to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a corresponding member of the then Soviet Academy of Sciences , and in 1932 to the National Academy of Sciences .

Since 1952 he was a member of the order Pour le Mérite for science and the arts and holder of the Great Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. A street and a school are named after him in his hometown. A bust has been in the Hall of Fame in Munich since 2000 . The Heinrich Wieland Prize has been awarded since 1964 , initially by the Margarine Institute for innovative scientific work in the fields of biochemistry, chemistry, physiology and clinical medicine of fats and lipids, today by the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation for biologically active molecules and systems and theirs clinical significance in chemistry, biochemistry and physiology.


  • A conversation with chemists: memories of Heinrich Wieland. In: Chemistry in Our Time . Volume 11, No. 5, 1977, pp. 143-149, ISSN  0009-2851
  • Culture and Technology 4/2007 . Magazine of the Deutsches Museum, ISSN  0344-5690
  • Elisabeth Vaupel : Useful networks and “war-important” research projects: The scope of action of the Nobel Prize winner Heinrich Wieland (1877–1957) in the Third Reich , in: Elisabeth Kraus (ed.), The University of Munich in the Third Reich . Articles, Part II, Munich 2008, pp. 331-380.
  • B. Witkop : Principiis obsta: memories of Heinrich Wieland. (PDF; 4.7 MB).
  • S. Wieland u. a .: Heinrich Wieland: natural scientist, Nobel Prize winner and Willstätters watch . Wiley-VCH, Weinheim 2008. ISBN 978-3-527-32333-3 .

Web links

Commons : Heinrich Wieland  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. encyclopedia team of the publisher FABrockhaus (ed.): Nobel Prizes . Chronicle of outstanding achievements. Mannheim 2001, ISBN 3-7653-0491-3 , pp. 270 .
  2. Freddy Litten: "He helped ... because as a person and opponent of National Socialism he felt motivated to do so" - Rudolf Hüttel (July 9, 1912 to October 12, 1993). Retrieved on June 12, 2010 (1998 article from communications from the Society of German Chemists - Department of the History of Chemistry ).
  3. ^ Heinrich Wieland. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1927. Nobel Foundation, accessed January 4, 2010 .
  4. Holger Krahnke: The members of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen 1751-2001 (= Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Philological-Historical Class. Volume 3, Vol. 246 = Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Mathematical-Physical Class. Episode 3, vol. 50). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2001, ISBN 3-525-82516-1 , p. 258.
  5. ↑ List of members Leopoldina, Heinrich Otto Wieland (with picture)
  6. ^ Foreign members of the Russian Academy of Sciences since 1724. Heinrich Otto Wieland. Russian Academy of Sciences, accessed August 11, 2015 (Russian).