We all are familiar with tea, coffee and chocolate. However, how many of us know the fact that they are made of a base called as purines? May be none of us. Thanks to Hermann Emil Fischer, purines were discovered and Fischer received a Nobel Prize for the same as well. Let us find out how Fischer managed to unveil this important component.
Hermann Emil Fischer was born on October 9, 1852 in Euskirchen, Prussia. Fischer attended the chemistry lectures of August Kekule at the University of Bonn. But he obtained his doctorate at Strasbourg, under the famous dye chemist Adolf von Baeyer. Fischer started as a chemistry professor at the University of Berlin.
In Berlin he was established the Kaiser Wilhelm Society which is now known as the Max Planck Society and its related institutes for chemistry and physics in 1911.
Invention of Purines
In his early career, Fischer started studying a family of bases called purines. During his research, he found that caffeine and theobromine were two bases or purines that were found in tea, coffee, and chocolate.
Fischer found out that purines formed an important building block of DNA. Fischer further studied sugars and their structures. He dedicatedly studied the reaction and degradation products of the compounds.
Soon, Fischer realized that many sugars were spatial isomers and can be differentiated by using famous chemist, Jacobus Henricus van't Hoff's theory of the tetrahedral carbon atom.
Fischer then developed the "Fischer projection" method, wherein he represented the bonds in horizontal lines projecting from the plane of the paper towards the viewer, and vertical lines representing bonds projecting away from the viewer. His study of sugars helped him study their fermentation and the enzymes that caused it.
Fischer further explored the structure of proteins that included the enzymes. He synthesized the sugars glucose, fructose and mannose for the first time and discovered the cyclic amino acids proline and oxyproline. He then identified the peptide bond that held the amino acid chains.
Thus a new dimension in organic chemistry took birth with the help of Fischer.