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Adolf Butenandt

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Title: Adolf Butenandt  
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Subject: List of Nobel laureates by university affiliation, Max Planck Society, List of Nobel laureates in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Leopold Ružička
Collection: 1903 Births, 1995 Deaths, Commandeurs of the Légion D'Honneur, Foreign Members of the Royal Society, Gdańsk University of Technology Faculty, German Biochemists, German Nazi Politicians, German Nobel Laureates, Grand Crosses with Star and Sash of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Humboldt University of Berlin Faculty, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich Faculty, Max Planck Society People, Members of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, Members of the Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art, Members of the German Academy of Sciences at Berlin, Members of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, Nobel Laureates Absent at the Ceremony, Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, Ordre Des Arts Et Des Lettres Recipients, People from Bremerhaven, Recipients of the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art, Recipients of the Bavarian Order of Merit, Recipients of the Grand Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria, Recipients of the Pour Le Mérite (Civil Class), Recipients of the War Merit Cross, 1St Class, University of Göttingen Alumni, University of Göttingen Faculty, University of Marburg Alumni, University of Tübingen Faculty
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Adolf Butenandt

Adolf Butenandt
Adolf Friedrich Johann Butenandt in 1921
Born (1903-03-24)24 March 1903
Lehe/Bremerhaven, German Empire
Died 18 January 1995(1995-01-18) (aged 91)
Munich, Germany
Nationality Germany
Fields biochemistry
Institutions Kaiser Wilhelm Institute / Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry
Technical University of Danzig
Doctoral advisor Adolf Windaus
Notable awards Nobel Prize for Chemistry (1939)
Kriegsverdienstkreuz (1942)

Adolf Friedrich Johann Butenandt (24 March 1903 – 18 January 1995) was a German biochemist.[1] He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1939 for his "work on sex hormones." He initially rejected the award in accordance with government policy, but accepted it in 1949 after World War II.[1][2][3][4]


  • Biography 1
  • Honours and awards 2
  • References 3
  • Bibliography 4
  • External links 5


Born in Lehe, near Bremerhaven, he started his studies at the University of Marburg.

For his Ph.D he joined the working group of the Nobel laureate Adolf Windaus at the University of Göttingen and he finished his studies with a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1927.


Adolf Windaus and Walter Schöller of Schering gave him the advice to work on hormones extracted from ovaries. This research lead to the discovery of estrone and other primary female sex hormones, which were extracted from several thousand liters of urine.[5][6] For this research he won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1939 together with Leopold Ružička who was involved in the synthesis of several newly discovered steroids.

After his Habilitation he became lecturer in Göttingen 1931. He was professor at the Technical University of Danzig 1933,[7] and after a visit in the US, he became director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Biochemistry (later the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry) in Berlin-Dahlem beginning in 1936.[8]

Butenandt joined the Nazi Party on 1 May 1936 (party member No. 3716562). As the head of a leading institute, he applied for government funding on concentrated research labeled kriegswichtig (important for the war), some of which focused on military projects like the improvement of oxygen uptake for high-altitude bomber pilots. His involvement with the Nazi regime and various themes of research led to criticism after the war and even after his death, the exact nature of his political orientation during the Nazi era has never been fully resolved.[9] When the institute moved to Tübingen in 1945 he became a professor at the University of Tübingen. In 1956, when the institute relocated to Martinsried, a suburb of Munich, Butenandt became a professor at the University of Munich. He also served as president of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science following Otto Hahn from 1960 to 1972.

Butenandt is credited with the discovery and naming of the silkworm moth pheromone Bombykol in 1959.

Butenandt died in Munich in 1995, at the age of 91. His wife Erika, born in 1906, has died in 1995 at 88.

Honours and awards


  1. ^ a b Szöllösi-Janze, Margit (2001). Science in the Third Reich (German Historical Perspectives). Oxford, UK: Berg Publishers.  
  2. ^ Akhtar, M.; Akhtar, M. E. (1998). "Adolf Friedrich Johann Butenandt. 24 March 1903-18 January 1995".  
  3. ^ Karlson, P. (1995). "Adolf Butenandt (1903–1995)". Nature 373 (6516): 660.  
  4. ^ Jaenicke, L. (1995). "Adolf Butenandt: 24. 3. 1903 - 18. 1. 1995". Chemie in unserer Zeit 29 (3): 163–165.  
  5. ^ Butenandt, A. (1929). "Über "Progynon" ein krystallisiertes weibliches Sexualhormon". Die Naturwissenschaften 17 (45): 879–879.  
  6. ^ Butenandt, A. (1931). "Über die chemische Untersuchung der Sexualhormone". Zeitschrift für Angewandte Chemie 44 (46): 905.  
  7. ^ Piosik, R. (2003). "Adolf Butenandt und sein Wirken an der Technischen Hochschule Danzig". Chemkon 10 (3): 135.  
  8. ^ Mertens, L. (2003). "Nur"Zweite Wahl" oder Die Berufung Adolf Butenandts zum Direktor des KWI für Biochemie". Berichte zur Wissenschafts-Geschichte 26 (3): 213.  
  9. ^ Trunk, A. (2006). "Biochemistry in Wartime: The Life and Lessons of Adolf Butenandt, 1936–1946". Minerva 44 (3): 285–306.  
  10. ^ "Reply to a parliamentary question" (pdf) (in German). p. 166. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  11. ^ "Reply to a parliamentary question" (pdf) (in German). p. 972. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 


  • Angelika Ebbinghaus, Karl-Heinz Roth (2002). "Von der Rockefeller Foundation zur Kaiser-Wilhelm/Max-Planck-Gesellschaft: Adolf Butenandt als Biochemiker und Wissenschaftspolitiker des 20. Jahrhunderts". Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 50 (5): 389–418. 
  • Schieder, Wolfgang (2004). Adolf Butenandt und die Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft - Wissenschaft, Industrie und Politik im "Dritten Reich". Göttingen: Wallstein-Verlag. p. 450.  

External links

  • Biography
  • 1939 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
  • Biography
  • MPG Biography
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