Ludwig Darmstaedter

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Ludwig Darmstaedter (around 1920)

Ludwig Darmstaedter (born August 9, 1846 in Mannheim , † October 18, 1927 in Berlin ) was a German chemist and science historian .

Darmstaedter put on an extensive collection of autographs and correspondence mainly by scholars of the natural sciences. It forms an essential part of the manuscript department of the Berlin State Library . For this he was appointed honorary director there. He also founded the Friends of the Royal Library Association in 1914 .


He came from a Jewish merchant family in Mannheim and even as a child had many inclinations towards collecting and hiking in nature, with which he felt closely connected. From 1864 he studied at the University of Heidelberg , initially with the mineralogist Johann Reinhard Blum .

Then he switched to chemistry, studied with Robert Wilhelm Bunsen and Emil Erlenmeyer and received his doctorate in 1867 . He then continued his studies at the University of Leipzig with Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe . He then switched to Carl Hermann Wichelhaus (1842–1927) and took part in his private laboratory in work and studies on the alkali melt of sulfonic acids .

During this time he wrote a number of papers on organic chemistry that have been published. Then he spent a few years abroad as "years of travel". In Berlin he worked together with the chemist Benno Jaffé (1840–1923) on problems of industrial glycerol production and became its partner in the company Dr. Benno Jaffe & Darmstaedter . From 1884, the production was expanded to include the pure production of lanolin , which proved itself brilliantly from 1890.

He was particularly interested in the history of the natural sciences . As a science historian , Darmstaedter wrote, among other things, a standard work on the history of natural sciences and technology.

By 1906 he put on an extensive collection of autographs , manuscripts , personal papers , diaries , notebooks and collectors' items made of porcelain, mainly from scholars from the natural sciences and technology. His inclination to travel to other European countries was also dedicated to mountaineering in the Alps until 1894, where he made several first ascents in the Dolomites under the guidance of Johann Niederwieser .

In 1904 he published with René du Bois-Reymond (1863-1936) a collection of tables of the history of the exact sciences under the title 4000 years of pioneering work in the exact natural sciences . This work appeared in a second edition in 1908 under the title Handbuch zur Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften und der Technik , in which the chronology of the development of scientific knowledge was shown.

When his collection reached 23,000 documents and 9,000 names from the end of the 15th century to 1900 in 1907, he handed this collection over to the Royal Library , today the State Library of Berlin . The Darmstaedter collection forms an important part of the autograph collection there. From 1917 onwards, Wilhelm Doegen , with the help and financial support of Darmstaedter, built up a collection of vocal portraits of well-known personalities, which served as a supplement to the autograph collection. He donated these to the Royal Library on March 22, 1914 . The collection of voice recordings was transferred to the newly founded phonetic department of the Prussian State Library in 1920 and was continued there and from 1934 at the Institute for Phonology of Berlin University until 1944. The remaining parts of the collection can be found today in the sound archive of the Humboldt University in Berlin.

On February 26, 1914, he founded the Association of Friends of the Royal Library , whose activity lasted until 1940 and which was dissolved in 1945. From 1920 until his death Darmstaedter was a member of the Senate of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society .

From 1907 to 1926 he worked in the Royal Library every day to catalog, prepare and enlarge his collection. He also authored numerous biographical essays that were published in the daily press. In 1926 he published Biographische Miniatures , which portrayed fifty scientists and inventors from the 16th to 19th centuries. His last publication, dedicated to the chemical historian Marcellin Berthelot , was published in October 1927 in the Vossische Zeitung .

In the 1920s, the turbulence caused by hyperinflation in 1923 also affected Darmstaedter's financial contributions to the University of Frankfurt and the other collections. From 1920 he received the help of the botanist and library councilor Julius Schuster in his work on further building up the collections . In 1924, the inflation forced Darmstaedter to ask the Prussian Ministry of Culture to exonerate him from his obligations. He had his porcelain collection auctioned for this purpose in 1925. Nevertheless, the Jewish collector continued to find many supporters who made funds available to him, including the Minister for Science, Culture and Education, Carl Heinrich Becker .

At the end of his activity, which in the State Library was associated with an ever-increasing interest in the use of the collected documents and research work, the collection had reached 190,000 documents and 45,000 names and thus became the largest autograph collection within the State Library. In recognition of this, he was appointed honorary director there. He was connected to the physician Paul Ehrlich through his sister-in-law Franska Speyer, who at Darmstaedter's request supported Ehrlich's research with substantial financial means.

The name Ludwig Darmstaedter lives on in the title of one of the most prestigious and highly endowed awards for medicine and natural sciences, the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize , which is awarded by the Paul Ehrlich Foundation in cooperation with the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University and private donors for international excellence in the border area of chemistry and medicine .

Grave of Ludwig Darmstaedter in Berlin-Schöneberg (2009), here still marked with an honorary grave

Ludwig Darmstaedter died in Berlin in 1927 at the age of 81. His grave is in the Old Twelve Apostles Cemetery in Berlin-Schöneberg . From 1990 to 2014 Darmstaedter's final resting place was dedicated as a Berlin grave of honor .

His nephew Ernst Darmstaedter (1877–1938), a doctor of chemistry and son of Julius Darmstaedter, devoted himself as a private scholar to the history of natural sciences and medicine in Munich from 1906 (including Georg Agricola, Paracelsus, pseudo-donor). From 1922 to 1928 he published the Munich Contributions to the History of Natural Sciences and Medicine . His son Paul Darmstädter was a professor for economic and colonial history in Göttingen.


  • L. Darmstaedter and Réné du Bois-Reymond: 4000 years of pioneering work in the exact sciences (sorted by year), Berlin 1904, online at ; 2nd edition: Handbook on the history of natural sciences and technology . Berlin 1908 ( Textarchiv - Internet Archive )
  • Ludwig Darmstaedter: Royal Library of Berlin. Directory of the autograph collection . Berlin 1909.
  • Ludwig Darmstaedter: natural scientist and inventor. Biographical miniatures . Bielefeld 1926.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Since 1997 Friends of the Berlin State Library e. V.
  2. Jürgen ‑ K. Mahrenholz: South Asian speech and music recordings in the sound archive of the Humboldt University in Berlin . In: MIDA Archival Reflexicon . 2020, p. 5 ( ).
  3. ^ Hans-Jürgen Mende : Lexicon of Berlin burial places . Pharus-Plan, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-86514-206-1 , p. 750.