Staudinger, Hermann

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b. 23 March 1881 Worms, Germany
d. 8 September 1965 Freiberg im Breisgau, Germany
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German chemist, founder of polymer chemistry.
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Staudinger studied chemistry at the universities of Halle, Darmstadt and Munich, originally as a preparation for botanical studies, but chemistry claimed his full attention. He followed an academic career, with professorships at Karlsruhe in 1908, Zurich in 1912 and Freiberg from 1926 until his retirement in 1951. Staudinger began his work as an organic chemist by following well-established lines of research, but from 1920 he struck out in a new direction. Until that time, rubber and other apparently non-crystalline materials with high molecular weight were supposed to consist of a disordered collection of small molecules. Staudinger investigated the structure of rubber and realized that it was made up of very large molecules with many basic groups of atoms held together by normal chemical bonds. Substances formed in this way are known as "polymers". Staudinger's views first met with opposition, but he developed methods of determining the molecular weights of these "high polymers". Finally, the introduction of X-ray crystallographic investigation of chemical structure confirmed his views. This discovery has proved to be the basis of a new branch of chemistry with momentous consequences for industry. From it stemmed the synthetic rubber, plastics, fibres, adhesives and other industries, with all their multifarious applications in everyday life. The Staudinger equation, linking viscosity with molecular weight, is still widely used, albeit with some reservations, in the polymer industry.
During the 1930s, Staudinger turned his attention to biopolymers and foresaw the discovery some twenty years later that these macromolecules were the building blocks of life. In 1953 he belatedly received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1953.
Bibliography
1961, Arbeitserinnerungen, Heidelberg; pub. in English, 1970 as From Organic Chemistry to Macromolecules, New York (includes a comprehensive bibliography of 644 items).
Further Reading
E.Farber, 1963, Nobel Prize Winners in Chemistry, New York.
R.C.Olby, 1970, "The macromolecular concept and the origins of molecular biology", J. Chem. Ed. 47:168–74.
LRD

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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