ⓘ Otto Wallach


ⓘ Otto Wallach

Otto Wallach was a German chemist and recipient of the 1910 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on alicyclic compounds.


1. Biography

Wallach was born in Konigsberg, the son of a Prussian civil servant. His father, Gerhard Wallach, descended from a Jewish family that had converted to Lutheranism. His mother, Otillie Thoma, was an ethnic German of Protestant religion. Wallachs father was transferred to Stettin Szczecin and later to Potsdam. Otto Wallach went to school, a Gymnasium, in Potsdam, where he learned about literature and the history of art, two subjects he was interested his whole life. At this time he also started private chemical experiments at the house of his parents.

In 1867 he started studying chemistry at the University of Gottingen, where at this time Friedrich Wohler was head of organic chemistry. After one semester at the University of Berlin with August Wilhelm von Hofmann, Wallach received his Doctoral degree from the University of Gottingen in 1869, and worked as a Professor in the University of Bonn 1870–89 and the University of Gottingen 1889–1915. Two of his doctoral students were Adolf Sieverts and Walter Haworth. Wallach died at Gottingen. In 1912, he was awarded the Davy Medal.


2. Major works

During his work with Friedrich Kekule in Bonn he started a systematic analysis of the terpenes present in essential oils. Up to this time only a few had been isolated in pure form, and structural information was sparse. Melting point comparison and the measurement of mixtures was one of the methods to confirm identical substances. For this method the mostly liquid terpenes had to be transformed into crystalline compounds. With stepwise derivatisation, especially additions to the double bond present in some of the terpenes, he achieved the goal of obtaining crystalline compounds. The investigation of the rearrangement reactions of cyclic unsaturated terpenes made it possible to obtain the structure of an unknown terpene by following the rearrangement to a known structure of a terpene. With these principal methods he opened the path to systematic research on terpenes.

He was responsible for naming terpene and pinene, and for undertaking the first systematic study of pinene ^.

He wrote a book about the chemistry of terpenes, "Terpene und Campher" 1909.

Otto Wallach is known for Wallachs rule, Wallach degradation, the Leuckart-Wallach reaction which he developed along with Rudolf Leuckart and the Wallach rearrangement.


3. Works

  • Tabellen zur chemischen Analyse. Weber, Bonn 1880. Digital edition of the University and State Library Dusseldorf.
  • 2. Methoden zur Auffindung und Trennung der Elemente. 2. Aufl. von "Hulfstabellen fur den chemisch-analytischen Unterricht" 1880
  • 1. Verhalten der Elemente und ihrer Verbindungen. 1880
  • Terpene und Campher: Zusammenfassung eigener Untersuchungen auf dem Gebiet der alicyclischen Kohlenstoffverbindungen. 2. Aufl. Leipzig: von Veit, 1914. Digital edition of the University and State Library Dusseldorf.