Ernst Otto Fischer was a German scientist and professor who, along with English chemist Geoffrey Wilkinson, shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1973 for their independent but related work on metallocenes and other parts of organometallic chemistry. Fischer’s groundbreaking work includes the discovery of an altogether new method for mixing organic compounds and metals. He investigated the newly discovered organometallic molecule ferrocene (chemical formula Fe(C5H5)2) and discovered that it is made up of two carbon rings with five sides each, bonded on opposing sides of one iron atom. He then went on to synthesize other metallocenes such as cobaltocene and nickelocene. ‘Sandwich compounds’ are another name for these organometallic compounds. He became a Lecturer of Chemistry at the institution after receiving his PhD from the ‘Technical University of Munich.’ His career progressed gradually, and he eventually held the positions of Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at the ‘University of Munich,’ Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at the ‘Technical University of Munich,’ and Chair of Inorganic Chemistry at the ‘Technical University of Munich.’ He also received the ‘Göttingen Academy Prize for Chemistry’ in 1957 and the ‘GCS Alfred Stock Memorial Prize’ in 1959, in addition to the ‘Nobel Prize.’
Childhood and Adolescence
As the third child of Dr. Karl Tobias Fischer and his wife, Valentine Danzer, he was born on November 10, 1918, in Solln, Germany, near Munich. His father was a physics professor at Munich’s Technical College.
He went to primary school for four years before enrolling in the ‘Theresiengymnasium,’ Munich’s oldest grammar school, in 1929, and graduating with an Abitur in 1937.
While completing his two years of mandatory military service, ‘World War II’ broke out, and he was stationed in France, Poland, and Russia.
During the latter half of 1941, while on military study leave, he began studying chemistry at the ‘Technical University of Munich.’ Following the reopening of the ‘Technical Institution of Munich’ in 1946, he resumed his studies and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the university in 1949.
Professor Walter Hieber, the father of metal carbonyl chemistry, inducted him into the Inorganic Chemistry Institute at the ‘Technical University of Munich’ as a scientific assistant. Fischer got his PhD in 1952 after working on his dissertation thesis, “The Mechanisms of Carbon Monoxide Reactions of Nickel (II) Salts in the Presence of Dithionites and Sulfoxylates,” under Hieber’s supervision.
He continued his research at the college after accepting Hieber’s offer and focused his studies on transition metal and organometallic chemistry. He pointed out that Pauson and Keally’s molecular structure of ferrocene might be inaccurate in his university lecture thesis, ‘The Metal Complexes of Cyclopentadienes and Indenes.’
Career of Ernst Otto Fischer
He was hired as a chemistry lecturer at the ‘Technical University of Munich’ in 1955. The next year, he spent several months in the United States on a scientific mission.
He invented a new method for manufacturing metals and chemical compounds. Fischer demonstrated in 1955 that organometallic compounds, which are now widely used in biological research and industry, could be produced from molecules, a concept previously thought to be impossible.
He determined the structure of ferrocene, succeeded in synthesizing dibenzolchrome from CrCl3 and C6H6 in the presence of AlCl3, and devised a method for synthesizing arene derivatives.
He was the first to obtain the arenecyclopentadienyl, arenecarbonyl, and other mixed-complexes of the transition elements. He demonstrated that when these compounds are heated, they break up into a’metallic mirror,’ which may be used to obtain ultrapure metals.
Fischer was the first to synthesis a variety of transuranium and technetium organometallic compounds.
He was a Professor at the University of Munich from 1957 until 1959. In 1959, he turned down an offer of the Chair of Inorganic Chemistry at the ‘University of Jena’ and accepted a position as Senior Professor at the University of Munich. He was in this role until 1964.
In 1960, he turned down an opportunity to become a Senior Professor in the Department of Inorganic Chemistry at the ‘University of Marburg.’
He was a Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at the ‘Technical University of Munich’ from 1964 to 1984, and he also served as the university’s Chair of Inorganic Chemistry, following Professor Hieber.
In 1964, he was able to synthesize stable transition element carbene complexes. Fischer carbanes are one of two forms of metal carbene complexes that have strong -acceptors at the metal and are electrophilic at the carbene carbon atom. In the same year, he was elected a member of the ‘Bavarian Academy of Sciences”s Mathematics/Natural Science division.
In 1969, he was inducted as a member of Germany’s ‘Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina.’ He was a Firestone Lecturer at the ‘University of Wisconsin –Madison’ that year.
He was the first Pacific West Coast Lecturer in Inorganic Chemistry in 1971. That year, he was also a Visiting Professor at the ‘University of Florida’ in Gainesville.
In 1972, the ‘University of Munich’s Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy awarded him an honorary doctorate.
In 1973, he discovered stable transition element carbine complexes. He was the Arthur D. Little Visiting Professor at the ‘Massachusetts Institute of Technology’ in Massachusetts in the spring of that year.
For a time, he was also a Visiting Distinguished Lecturer at Rochester’s ‘University of Rochester.’
He lectured on metallic complexes of cyclopentadienes and indenes, mono-, di-, and oligo-olefins, metal-complexes of six-ringed aromatics, and metalcarbonyl carbene and carbyne complexes all over the world, including the United States, the Soviet Union, Australia, Israel, Brazil, and Venezuela, among others.
He mentored a large number of PhD and postdoctoral students, many of whom went on to achieve tremendous success in their professions.
He wrote roughly 450 scientific articles over the years. He co-authored two books: ‘Metal Pi-complexes: Complexes with Di-and Oligo-olefinic Ligands,’ which was published by ‘Elsevier Science Ltd’ in July 1966, and ‘Transition Metal Carbene Complexes,’ which was published by ‘Verlag Chemie’ in 1983.
He was a member of the ‘American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ as a foreign member.
Achievements & Awards
In 1973, he and English chemist Geoffrey Wilkinson shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Personal History and Legacy
Fischer was never married throughout his life.
He passed away on July 23, 2007, at the age of 88, in Munich, Germany.
Estimated Net Worth
The estimated net worth of Ernst Otto Fischer is unknown.