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EMIL FISCHER (1852– )

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Originally appearing in Volume V10, Page 426 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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EMIL FISCHER (1852– ), German chemist, was born at Euskirchen, in Rhenish Prussia, on the 9th of October 1852, his father being a merchant and manufacturer. After studying chemistry at Bonn, he migrated to Strassburg, where he graduated as Ph.D. in 1874. He then acted as assistant to Adolf von Baeyer at Munich for eight years, after which he was appointed to the chair of chemistry successively at Erlangen (1882) and Wurzburg (1885). In 1892 he succeeded A. W. von Hofmann as professor of chemistry at Berlin. Emil Fischer devoted himself entirely to organic chemistry, and his investigations are characterized by an originality of idea and readiness of resource which make him the master of this branch of experi- mental chemistry. In his hands no substance seemed too complex to admit of analysis or of synthesis; and the more intricate and involved the subjects of his investigations the more strongly shown is the conspicuous skill in pulling, as it were, atom from atom, until the molecule stood revealed, and, this accomplished, the same skill combined atom with atom until the molecule was regenerated. His forte was to enter fields where others had done little except break the ground; and his researches in many cases completely elucidated the problem in hand, and where the solution was not entire, his methods and results almost always contained the key to the situation. In 1875, the year following his engagement with von Baeyer, he published his discovery of the organic derivatives of a new compound of hydrogen and nitrogen, which he named hydrazine (q.v.). He investigated both the aromatic and aliphatic derivatives, establishing their relation to the diazo compounds, and he perceived the readiness with which they entered into combination with other substances, giving origin to a wealth of hitherto unknown compounds. Of such condensation products undoubtedly the most important are the hydrazones, which result from the interaction with aldehydes and ketones. His observations, published in 1886, that such hydra-zones, by treatment with hydrochloric acid or zinc chloride, yielded derivatives of indol, the pyrrol of the benzene series and the parent substance of indigo, were a valuable confirmation of the views advanced by his master, von Baeyer, on the subject of indigo and the many substances related to it. Of greater moment was his discovery that phenyl hydrazine reacted with the sugars to form
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