Emil Hermann Fischer

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Fischer, Emil Hermann


Born Oct. 9, 1852, in Euskirchen; died July 15, 1919, in Berlin. German organic chemist and biochemist.

Fischer graduated from the University of Strasbourg in 1874, where he was a student of A. von Baeyer. He was a professor at the University of Munich from 1879, the University of Erlangen from 1882, the University of Würzburg from 1885, and the University of Berlin from 1892 to 1919.

In 1875, Fischer synthesized phenylhydrazine, which he used as a reagent on aldehydes and ketones and later for the identification and isolation of individual monosaccharides. His studies of the structure of purine compounds, undertaken in 1882, led to the synthesis of a number of physiologically active substances in subsequent years: caffeine, theobromine, adenine, and guanine (1897) and purine (1898). In 1903, Fischer synthesized diethylbarbituric acid, which came to be used as the soporific barbital (originally called veronal). From 1884 he carried out extensive research on hydrocarbons, establishing their rational formulas and formulating a nomenclature. In 1890, Fischer synthesized grape sugar and fruit sugar from glycerose and formaldehyde, and in 1893 he proposed a method of synthesizing glucosides from sugars and alcohol, which was successfully applied in practice. In 1894 he used biocatalysts—enzymes—for the synthesis of chemical compounds, having found that a similarity in molecular configurations exists between these enzymes and compounds.

In 1899, Fisher undertook research on the chemistry of proteins. Using the ester method of amino-acid analysis he developed in 1901, Fischer first carried out qualitative and quantitative analysis of protein fission products, discovered valine (1901), proline (1901), and hydroxyproline (1902), and experimentally proved that amino-acid residues are linked to each other by a peptide bond; in 1907 he synthesized an 18-member polypeptide. Fischer demonstrated the similarity between the synthetic polypeptides and peptides obtained through protein hydrolysis. Fischer also engaged in the study of tanning agents.

Fischer founded a school of organic chemists. He was a foreign corresponding member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences from 1899. Fischer was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1902.


Gesammelte Werke, vols. 1–6. Edited by M. Bergmann. Berlin, 1906–24.


Shamin, A. N. “Emil’ Germann Fisher.” Zhurnal Vsesoiuznogo khimicheskogo obshchestva im. D. I. Mendeleeva, 1975, vol. 20, no. 6, p. 613.