Karl Ziegler

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November 26, 1898
Birth Sign
November 26, 1898

Karl Waldemar Ziegler was a German chemist who shared the 1963 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Giulio Natta for their work on polymers. Karl Ziegler, born in Marburg, developed an early interest in science and quickly began reading books outside of his school curricula. By the time he reached the age of admission to the University of Marburg, his knowledge of the subject had grown to the point where he was permitted to skip two semesters. He began his career as a Privatdozent at the University of Marburg after earning his PhD in chemistry. He transferred to the University of Frankfurt am Main, then to the University of Heidelberg, and finally to the University of Halle within a short period of time. However, with the outbreak of the Second World War, conducting fundamental research became difficult. As a result, he accepted the position of Director at the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute for Coal Research in Mülheim a der Ruhr on his own terms. He worked at Mülheim on the polyethylene syntheses for which he won the Nobel Prize. He also made a number of other significant discoveries, which earned him not only fame, but also a number of patents and, as a result, considerable wealth.

Childhood & Adolescence

Karl Ziegler was born in Kassel, Germany, on November 26, 1898, the second son of Lutheran minister Karl Ziegler and Caroline Helene Louise, née Rall.

Karl began his education in Helsa at the Kassel-Bettenhausen elementary school. The family relocated to Marburg in 1910, and he was admitted to the Real gymnasium.

He came across an introductory textbook on physics while studying there. After reading it, he developed a strong interest in science and began reading books outside of his curriculum. Additionally, he began conducting experiments at home.

He was also encouraged in this endeavor by his father’s friends, many of whom were University of Marburg professors. By the time Karl reached his senior year of high school, he had amassed a wealth of scientific knowledge and earned the most outstanding student award.

Karl enrolled at the University of Marburg in 1916 after dropping out of school. However, due to his extensive knowledge of the subject, he was granted permission to bypass the first two semesters.

His college education was cut short in 1918 when he enlisted in the German army and was deployed to the front lines to fight in the First World War. Fortunately, the war ended that year, and he returned to continue his studies.

He began his graduate work under Karl von Auwers in 1919 and earned a PhD in chemistry in 1920. ‘Studies on semibenzole and related compounds’ was the title of his dissertation.

He continued his collaboration with Karl von Auwers at Marburg University. He established during his doctoral work that carbinols could be used to synthesize halochromic salts. He then proceeded to synthesize similar substituted free radicals and succeeded in obtaining 1,2,4,5-tetraphenylallyl. His 1923 paper qualified him as Privatdozent.

Career of Karl

Karl Ziegler was appointed Privatdozent at the University of Marburg in December 1923. Simultaneously, he continued his research with Karl von Auwers on free radicals.

He transferred to the University of Frankfurt am Main in 1925 and remained until 1926. He also synthesized pentaphenyl-cyclopentadienyl in 1925. The compound was more stable than free radicals containing trivalent carbon, such as triphenylmethyl.

Ziegler began his career as an assistant professor at the University of Heidelberg in 1926 and remained there until 1936. Here he began his investigations into the stability of radicals on trivalent carbons. He became interested in organometallic chemistry as a result of his work.

He was appointed full professor at the University of Heidelberg in 1927. This was also the year he discovered that when the olefin stilbene is added to a solution of phenylisopropyl potassium in ethyl ether, the color changes abruptly from red to yellow.

He also discovered that by adding more olefinic hydrocarbon butadiene to a solution of phenylisopropyl potassium, he could obtain a long-chain hydrocarbon with the reactive organopotassium end intact.

Ziegler synthesized lithium alkyls and aryls directly from metallic lithium and halogenated hydrocarbons in 1930. He then published his first significant paper on the syntheses of multi-membered ring systems in 1933. It was titled ‘Vielgliedrige Ringsysteme’ and introduced the Ruggli-Ziegler dilution principle.

In 1936, he left Heidelberg and spent a brief period as a visiting professor at the University of Chicago. Later that year, he was appointed full professor and director of the University of Halle’s Chemical Institute.

He continued his research on alkali organic compounds, free radicals, polymerization mechanisms, and ring syntheses while at this institution. However, as World War II began in 1939, the country’s political and economic situation deteriorated, making fundamental research extremely difficult.

In 1943, he was appointed Director of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut fur Kohlenforschung (Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute for Coal Research) in Mülheim a der Ruhr, succeeding Franz Fischer. He accepted the offer on the condition that two conditions were met.

His first condition was that he be permitted to work on all carbon compounds other than coal, and his second condition was that he be permitted to retain patent rights and royalties on new inventions. His family, however, remained in Halle.

From 1943 to 1945, Ziegler commuted between Halle and Mülheim, carrying both responsibilities concurrently.

Later in the war, as the Russian army advanced toward Halle, he relocated permanently to Mülheim. The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute was renamed the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung during this post-year period (Max Planck Institute for Coal Research). Now, his primary objective was to reintroduce chemical research to Germany.

Simultaneously, he continued his own research and made some significant discoveries. Simultaneously, in 1949, he helped found Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker and served as its president for five years.

He served as President of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Mineralölwissenschaft und Kohlechemie from 1954 to 1957. (German Society for Petroleum Science and Coal Chemistry). In 1969, he resigned from the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung.

Significant Works

He made a significant contribution to the scientific understanding and technical development of new synthetic materials. His research on organometallic compounds, which resulted in the discovery of novel polymerization reactions, paved the way for the development of novel and extremely useful industrial processes.

Awards and Accomplishments

Ziegler was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1963 for his “discoveries in the field of high polymer chemistry and technology.” He shared the prize with Giulio Natta, who developed the first isotactic polypropylene using Ziegler’s techniques.

Additionally, he had received a number of other medals and awards, the most notable of which were the Liebig Medal (1935), the War Merit Cross 2nd Class (1940), and the Werner von Siemens Ring (1961). He was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society in 1971. (England).

Personal History and Legacies

Karl Ziegler married Maria Kurtz in 1922. They were the parents of two children. Erhart Ziegler, Erhart’s son, was a physicist and patent attorney. Marianna Ziegler Witte, his daughter, was a physician.

Ziegler amassed a large number of patents, which enabled him to amass considerable wealth. He later established the Ziegler Fund with a portion of his wealth (40 million deutsche marks) in order to support the institute’s research.

He was also an art collector and enjoyed traveling. He was particularly fond of cruising. In 1972, he chartered a cruise to observe an eclipse. He fell ill during this trip and died a year later in Mülheim, Germany, on August 12, 1973.

Today, he is credited with the invention of a number of scientific processes. Among them are the Ziegler–Natta catalyst, the Ziegler process, the Wohl–Ziegler bromination, and the Thorpe–Ziegler reaction.

Estimated Net Worth

The net worth of Karl is $15million.