The first Nobel Prize

1915

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Photo: Richard Willstätter, Archives of the Max Planck Society.
Photo: Richard Willstätter, Archives of the Max Planck Society.

Richard Willstätter was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1915 - the first scientist from the KWS to win the coveted prize. Willstätter worked at the KWI for Chemistry where he researched chlorophyll but also developed a respiratory filter for gas masks in 1915 at the request of his friend Fritz Haber. The circumstances of war meant that the Nobel laureate’s speech was not delivered until 1920 in Stockholm. Willstätter had gone to Munich to work at the Ludwig Maximilian University in the interim, where he became the subject of anti-Semitic harassment in the 1920s. As a result, the chemist resigned his post as professor in 1924 and went to work in industry. He emigrated to Switzerland in 1939 and lived out the remaining years of his life there. Willstätter was the first of a total of 15 Nobel Prize winners to emerge from the KWS, including Albert Einstein, James Franck, Otto Hahn and Werner Heisenberg.

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