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Wieland, Heinrich Otto

steroid structure cholesterol organic

[ vee lant] (1877–1957) German organic chemist: carried out important work on the structure of cholesterol and other steroids.

The son of a gold refinery chemist, Wieland studied and taught in several German universities before succeeding at Munich in 1925. His early work was on organic compounds of nitrogen, including the fulminates; and in 1911 he made the first nitrogen free radicals. He also worked on natural products; plant alkaloids, butterfly-wing pigments (pterins) and especially the steroids. In steroid chemistry, he showed that three bile acids can all be converted into cholanic acid, which he also made from cholesterol. It therefore followed that the bile acids and cholesterol had the same carbon skeleton, and Wieland proposed a structure for this parent steroid skeleton. His first structure was shown to be incorrect, but a revised version which he and others produced in 1932 is correct. For his steroid work he was awarded the 1927 Nobel Prize. His other work included studies on toad venom, on curare and on biological oxidation (which he showed is often, in fact, dehydrogenation).

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