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Leopold Ružička

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Title: Leopold Ružička  
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Subject: List of Nobel laureates by university affiliation, Adolf Butenandt, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Karl Ziegler, ETH Zurich
Collection: 1887 Births, 1976 Deaths, 20Th-Century Croatian People, Austro-Hungarian Nobel Laureates, Austro-Hungarian Scientists, Croatian Austro-Hungarians, Croatian Biochemists, Croatian Emigrants to Switzerland, Croatian Nobel Laureates, Croatian People of Czech Descent, Croatian People of German Descent, Croatian Scientists, Eth Zurich Faculty, Faraday Lecturers, Foreign Members of the Royal Society, Members of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Naturalised Citizens of Switzerland, Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, Organic Chemists, People Associated with the University of Zurich, People from Vukovar, Swiss Nobel Laureates, Utrecht University Faculty, Yugoslav Nobel Laureates
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Leopold Ružička

Leopold Ružička
Born (1887-09-13)13 September 1887
Vukovar, Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia, Austria-Hungary (today's Croatia)
Died 26 September 1976(1976-09-26) (aged 89)
Mammern, Switzerland
Citizenship Austria-Hungary (1887–1917)
Switzerland (1917–1976)
Nationality Croat, Swiss
Fields Biochemistry
Alma mater Technische Hochschule Karlsruhe
Doctoral advisor Hermann Staudinger
Doctoral students George Büchi
Known for Terpenes
Notable awards Marcel Benoist Prize (1938)
Nobel Prize for Chemistry (1939)

Leopold Ružička ForMemRS[1] (13 September 1887 – 26 September 1976) was a Croatian-Swiss scientist and winner of the 1939 Nobel Prize in Chemistry who worked most of his life in Switzerland. He received eight honoris causa doctorates in science, medicine, and law; seven prizes and medals; and twenty-four honorary memberships in chemical, biochemical, and other scientific societies.


  • Biography 1
    • Work and research 1.1
    • Personal life 1.2
  • References 2
  • External links 3


Ružička was born in Vukovar, Croatia, then part of Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia, Austro-Hungarian Empire. His family of craftsmen and farmers was mostly of Croat origin, with a Czech great grandparent, and a great grandmother and a great grandfather from Austria.[2]

Ružička attended the classics-program secondary school in Osijek. He changed his original idea of becoming a priest and switched to studying technical disciplines. Chemistry was his choice, probably because he hoped to get a position at the newly opened sugar refinery built in Osijek.

Due to the excessive hardship of everyday and political life, he left and chose the High Technical School in physical chemistry professor, Fritz Haber (Nobel laureate in 1918), opposed his summa cum laude degree. However, in the course of his studies, Ružička set up excellent cooperation with Hermann Staudinger (a Nobel laureate in 1953). Studying within Staudinger's department, he obtained his doctor's degree in 1910. With Staudinger, Ružička went to Zurich and was his assistant.

Work and research

Ružička's first works originated during that period in the field of chemistry of natural compounds. He remained in this field of research all his life. He investigated the ingredients of the Dalmatian insect powder Pyrethrum (Tanacetum cinerariifolium), a highly esteemed insecticide found in pyrethrins. In this way, he came into contact with the chemistry of terpene, a fragrant oil of vegetable origin, interesting to the perfume industry. He intended to start individual research and even started successful and productive cooperation with the Chuit & Naef Company (later known as Firmenich) in Geneva.

In 1916–1917, he received the support of the oldest perfume organic synthesis of these type of compounds.

In 1921, the Geneva perfume manufacturers Chuit & Naef asked him to collaborate. Working here, Ružička achieved financial independence, but not as big as he did plan so he left Zurich to start working for the Utrecht University in Netherlands. In Netherlands he remained for three years, and then returned to Switzerland, which was superior in its chemical industry.

Back to Zurich, at ETH he became research, adding to it the chemistry of higher terpenes and steroids. After the successful synthesis of sex hormones (androsterone and testosterone), his laboratory became the world center of organic chemistry.

In 1939, he won the Nobel prize for chemistry with Adolf Butenandt. In 1940, following the award, he was invited by the Croatian Chemical Association, where he delivered a lecture to an over packed hall of dignitaries. The topic of the lecture was From the Dalmatian Insect Powder to Sex Hormones. In 1940 he became a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.[3] During the World War II, some of his excellent collaborators were lost, but Ružička restructured his laboratory with new, younger and promising people; among them was young scientist Vladimir Prelog. With new people and ideas new research areas were opened.

Following 1950, Ružička returned to chemistry, which had entered a new era of research. Now he turned to the field of biochemistry, the problems of evolution and genesis of life, particularly to the biogenesis of terpenes. He published his hypothesis, Biogenetic Isoprene Rule, which was the peak of his scientific career.[4] Ružička retired in 1957, turning over the running of the laboratory to his assistant and future Nobel laureate Vladimir Prelog.

Ružička dedicated significant efforts to the problems of Yugoslavia, and established the Swiss-Yugoslav Society. Ružička became an honorary academician at the then Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts in Zagreb. In Switzerland, the Ružička Award was established, for young chemists working in Switzerland. In his native Vukovar, a museum was opened in his honour in 1977.

Personal life

Ružička married twice: to Anna Hausmann in 1912, and 1951 to Gertrud Acklin. He died in Mammern, Switzerland, a village on Lake Constance.


  1. ^  
  2. ^ Karl Grandin, ed. (1939). "Leopold Ružička Biography". Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2008-10-21. 
  3. ^ "Leopold Stephan Ruzicka (1887 - 1976)". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 4 August 2015. 
  4. ^ Ružička, L. (1953). "The isoprene rule and the biogenesis of terpenic compounds". Journal Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 9 (10): 357–367.  

External links

  • Leopold Ružička
  • Leopold Ruzicka und das Verhältnis von Wissenschaft und Wirtschaft in der Chemie
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