The Most Famous

CHEMISTS from Germany

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This page contains a list of the greatest German Chemists. The pantheon dataset contains 510 Chemists, 90 of which were born in Germany. This makes Germany the birth place of the 2nd most number of Chemists.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary German Chemists of all time. This list of famous German Chemists is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of German Chemists.

Photo of Carl Wilhelm Scheele

1. Carl Wilhelm Scheele (1742 - 1786)

With an HPI of 79.87, Carl Wilhelm Scheele is the most famous German Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 66 different languages on wikipedia.

Carl Wilhelm Scheele (German: [ˈʃeːlə], Swedish: [ˈɧêːlɛ]; 9 December 1742 – 21 May 1786) was a German and Swedish Pomeranian pharmaceutical chemist. Isaac Asimov called him "hard-luck Scheele" because he made a number of chemical discoveries before others who are generally given the credit. For example, Scheele discovered oxygen (although Joseph Priestley published his findings first), and identified molybdenum, tungsten, barium, hydrogen, and chlorine before Humphry Davy, among others. Scheele discovered organic acids tartaric, oxalic, uric, lactic, and citric, as well as hydrofluoric, hydrocyanic, and arsenic acids. He preferred speaking German to Swedish his whole life, as German was commonly spoken among Swedish pharmacists.

Photo of Friedrich Wöhler

2. Friedrich Wöhler (1800 - 1882)

With an HPI of 78.91, Friedrich Wöhler is the 2nd most famous German Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 62 different languages.

Friedrich Wöhler (German: [ˈvøːlɐ]) FRS(For) HFRSE (31 July 1800 – 23 September 1882) was a German chemist, known for his work in inorganic chemistry, being the first to isolate the chemical elements beryllium and yttrium in pure metallic form. He was the first to prepare several inorganic compounds including silane and silicon nitride.Wöhler is known for seminal contributions in organic chemistry, in particular the Wöhler synthesis of urea. His synthesis of the organic compound urea in the laboratory from inorganic precursors refuted the prevailing belief that organic compounds could only be produced by living organisms due to a "life force". Wöhler also introduced the concept of a functional group, which was a new concept that advanced understanding of organic compounds.

Photo of Otto Hahn

3. Otto Hahn (1879 - 1968)

With an HPI of 78.68, Otto Hahn is the 3rd most famous German Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 76 different languages.

Otto Hahn (pronounced [ˈɔto ˈhaːn] (listen); 8 March 1879 – 28 July 1968) was a German chemist, and a pioneer in the fields of radioactivity and radiochemistry. Hahn is referred to as the father of nuclear chemistry. Hahn and Lise Meitner discovered radioactive isotopes of radium, thorium, protactinium and uranium. He also discovered the phenomena of radioactive recoil and nuclear isomerism, and pioneered rubidium–strontium dating. In 1938, Hahn, Lise Meitner and Fritz Strassmann discovered nuclear fission, for which Hahn received the 1944 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Nuclear fission was the basis for nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. A graduate of the University of Marburg, Hahn studied under Sir William Ramsay at University College London, and at McGill University in Montreal under Ernest Rutherford, where he discovered several new radioactive isotopes. He returned to Germany in 1906, and Emil Fischer placed a former woodworking shop in the basement of the Chemical Institute at the University of Berlin at his disposal to use as a laboratory. Hahn completed his habilitation in the spring of 1907, and became a Privatdozent. In 1912, he became head of the Radioactivity Department of the newly founded Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry. Working with the Austrian physicist Lise Meitner in the building that now bears their names, he made a series of groundbreaking discoveries, culminating with her isolation of the longest-lived isotope of protactinium in 1918. During World War I he served with a Landwehr regiment on the Western Front, and with the chemical warfare unit headed by Fritz Haber on the Western, Eastern and Italian fronts, earning the Iron Cross (2nd Class) for his part in the First Battle of Ypres. After the war he became the head of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry, while remaining in charge of his own department. Between 1934 and 1938, he worked with Strassmann and Meitner on the study of isotopes created through the neutron bombardment of uranium and thorium, which led to the discovery of nuclear fission. He was an opponent of national socialism and the persecution of Jews by the Nazi Party that caused the removal of many of his colleagues, including Meitner, who was forced to flee Germany in 1938. During World War II, he worked on the German nuclear weapons program, cataloguing the fission products of uranium. As a consequence, at the end of the war he was arrested by the Allied forces, and was incarcerated in Farm Hall with nine other German scientists, from July 1945 to January 1946. Hahn served as the last president of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society for the Advancement of Science in 1946 and as the founding president of its successor, the Max Planck Society from 1948 to 1960. In 1959 he co-founded in Berlin the Federation of German Scientists, a non-governmental organization, which has been committed to the ideal of responsible science. He became one of the most influential and respected citizens of the post-war West Germany, and worked to rebuild German science.

Photo of Julius Lothar Meyer

4. Julius Lothar Meyer (1830 - 1895)

With an HPI of 78.61, Julius Lothar Meyer is the 4th most famous German Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 46 different languages.

Julius Lothar Meyer (19 August 1830 – 11 April 1895) was a German chemist. He was one of the pioneers in developing the earliest versions of the periodic table of the chemical elements. Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev (his chief rival) and he had both worked with Robert Bunsen. Meyer never used his first given name, and was known throughout his life simply as Lothar Meyer.

Photo of Emil Fischer

5. Emil Fischer (1852 - 1919)

With an HPI of 78.06, Emil Fischer is the 5th most famous German Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 78 different languages.

Hermann Emil Louis Fischer FRS FRSE FCS (c; 9 October 1852 – 15 July 1919) was a German chemist and 1902 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He discovered the Fischer esterification. He also developed the Fischer projection, a symbolic way of drawing asymmetric carbon atoms. He also hypothesized lock and key mechanism of enzyme action. He never used his first given name, and was known throughout his life simply as Emil Fischer.

Photo of Justus von Liebig

6. Justus von Liebig (1803 - 1873)

With an HPI of 77.91, Justus von Liebig is the 6th most famous German Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 63 different languages.

Justus Freiherr von Liebig (12 May 1803 – 18 April 1873) was a German scientist who made major contributions to agricultural and biological chemistry, and is considered one of the principal founders of organic chemistry. As a professor at the University of Giessen, he devised the modern laboratory-oriented teaching method, and for such innovations, he is regarded as one of the greatest chemistry teachers of all time. He has been described as the "father of the fertilizer industry" for his emphasis on nitrogen and trace minerals as essential plant nutrients, and his formulation of the law of the minimum, which described how plant growth relied on the scarcest nutrient resource, rather than the total amount of resources available. He also developed a manufacturing process for beef extracts, and with his consent a company, called Liebig Extract of Meat Company, was founded to exploit the concept; it later introduced the Oxo brand beef bouillon cube. He popularized an earlier invention for condensing vapors, which came to be known as the Liebig condenser.

Photo of Eduard Buchner

7. Eduard Buchner (1860 - 1917)

With an HPI of 77.01, Eduard Buchner is the 7th most famous German Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 70 different languages.

Eduard Buchner (20 May 1860 – 13 August 1917) was a German chemist and zymologist, awarded the 1907 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on fermentation.

Photo of Adolf von Baeyer

8. Adolf von Baeyer (1835 - 1917)

With an HPI of 76.21, Adolf von Baeyer is the 8th most famous German Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 69 different languages.

Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Adolf von Baeyer (German: [ˈbaɪɐ]; 31 October 1835 – 20 August 1917) was a German chemist who synthesised indigo and developed a nomenclature for cyclic compounds (that was subsequently extended and adopted as part of the IUPAC organic nomenclature). He was ennobled in the Kingdom of Bavaria in 1885 and was the 1905 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Photo of August Kekulé

9. August Kekulé (1829 - 1896)

With an HPI of 75.32, August Kekulé is the 9th most famous German Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 55 different languages.

Friedrich August Kekulé, later Friedrich August Kekule von Stradonitz ( KAY-kəl-ay, German: [ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈʔaʊɡʊst ˈkeːkuleː fɔn ʃtʁaˈdoːnɪts]; 7 September 1829 – 13 July 1896), was a German organic chemist. From the 1850s until his death, Kekulé was one of the most prominent chemists in Europe, especially in theoretical chemistry. He was the principal founder of the theory of chemical structure and in particular the Kekulé structure of benzene.

Photo of Carl Bosch

10. Carl Bosch (1874 - 1940)

With an HPI of 75.19, Carl Bosch is the 10th most famous German Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 56 different languages.

Carl Bosch (27 August 1874 – 26 April 1940) was a German chemist and engineer and Nobel Laureate in Chemistry. He was a pioneer in the field of high-pressure industrial chemistry and founder of IG Farben, at one point the world's largest chemical company.

Pantheon has 90 people classified as chemists born between 1555 and 1987. Of these 90, 11 (12.22%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living chemists include Gerhard Ertl, Joachim Frank, and Robert Huber. The most famous deceased chemists include Carl Wilhelm Scheele, Friedrich Wöhler, and Otto Hahn. As of October 2020, 2 new chemists have been added to Pantheon including Hermann Wilhelm Vogel and Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim.

Living Chemists

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Deceased Chemists

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Newly Added Chemists (2020)

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Which Chemists were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Chemists since 1700.