Richard Kuhn and his Work on Carotinoids and Vitamins

Richard Kuhn (1900 - 1967)

Richard Kuhn (19001967)

On December 3, 1900, Austrian-German biochemist Richard Johann Kuhn was born. Kuhn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1938 “for his work on carotenoids and vitamins“. Kuhn is also credited with the discovery of the deadly nerve agent Soman in 1944.

Before entering the University of Vienna in 1918, Richard Kuhn attended the same classes as the later Nobel Prize winner Wolfgang Pauli. In 1919, Kuhn moved to the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich  like his schoolmate Pauli. There, Kuhn received his doctorate with a thesis on the specificity of enzymes. In 1925, Richard Kuhn became private lecturer for General and Analytical Chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich and one year later he became full professor for General and Analytical Chemistry and also his schoolmate Wolfgang Pauli became professor of theoretical physics at the ETH Zurich in 1928. At the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Medical Research, Kuhn became research associate and later head of the department.

Richard Kuhn mainly focused on the research of plant pigments and vitamins. He found many results independent of and parallel to Paul Karrer who had been awarded the Nobel Prize in 1937 for his research in this field. Along with his colleagues Edgar Lederer and Alfred Winterstein, he used chromatographic methods developed by Michael Tswett and considerably improved by Richard Willstätter, to isolate these sensitive substances. In 1938, Richard Kuhn was able to synthesize vitamin B6 and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for his work on carotenoids and vitamins”, which he received only in 1948 due to a decree of the National Socialist rulers.

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