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Otto Diels

Otto DielsAKA Otto Paul Hermann Diels

Born: 23-Jan-1876
Birthplace: Hamburg, Germany
Died: 7-Mar-1954
Location of death: Kiel, Germany
Cause of death: Heart Failure

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Chemist

Nationality: Germany
Executive summary: Diels-Alder Reaction

German chemist Otto Diels studied under Emil Fischer, and improved techniques for the synthesis of organic chemical compounds. In 1906 he discovered a new oxide of carbon, carbon suboxide (C3O2), and in 1922 he developed a new method for dehydrogenating compounds. In work that greatly improved the scientific understanding of cholesterol and other steroids, he dehydrogenated cholesterol to produce 'Diels hydrocarbon' (C18H16) in 1927. The following year, Diels and his student Kurt Alder described how an alkene reacts with a diene to create a cyclohexene. Now called the Diels-Alder reaction, this allowed the development and mass production of affordable synthetic alkaloids, insecticides, plastics, polymers, rubber, and steroids. For this, Diels and Alder shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1950.

He also developed the first practical method using metallic selenium to remove hydrogen atoms from certain organic molecules. After his home and laboratory in Kiel were destroyed by Allied bombing in 1944, Diels ceased his research and filed retirement papers, but he continued teaching part-time at the University of Kiel until 1950. Though his work was of major consequence to 20th century science and industry, Diels is unfairly almost unknown beyond his native Germany, and his biography remains unwritten beyond a few retrospective articles in scientific journals. His father, Hermann Alexander Diels, was a well-known historian and theologist, and his brother, Ludwig Diels, became a prominent botanist of his era.

Father: Hermann Alexander Diels (philologist, b. 18-May-1848, d. 4-Jun-1922)
Mother: Bertha Dübell Diels (b. 1847, m. 17-Jul-1873, d. 15-Jun-1919)
Brother: Ludwig Diels (botanist, b. 24-Sep-1874, d. 30-Nov-1945)
Brother: Paul Diels (linguist, b. 28-Dec-1882, d. 19-Frb-1963)
Wife: Paula Geyer (m. 1909, three sons, two daughters)

    High School: Joachimsthalsches Gymnasium, Berlin (1895)
    University: BS Chemistry, University of Berlin (1899)
    Scholar: Chemistry, University of Berlin (1899-1904)
    Lecturer: Chemistry, University of Berlin (1899-1906)
    Professor: Chemistry, University of Berlin (1906-16)
    Professor: Chemistry, University of Kiel (1916-50)

    Adolf von Baeyer Medallion 1930
    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1950 (with Kurt Alder)
    Grand Order of Merit 1952
    German Ancestry
    Heart Attack 7-Mar-1954 (fatal)

Author of books:
Einführung in die Organische Chemie (Introduction to Organic Chemistry) (1907, textbook)

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