|Died||18 January 1995 (aged 91)|
|Awards||Nobel Prize for Chemistry (1939)|
|Fields||Organic and biochemistry|
|Institutions||Kaiser Wilhelm Institute / Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry |
Technical University of Danzig
|Thesis||Untersuchungen über das Rotenon, den physiologisch wirksamen Bestandteil der Derris elliptica (1928)|
|Doctoral advisor||Adolf Windaus|
Adolf Friedrich Johann Butenandt (German pronunciation: [ˈaːdɔlf ˈbuːtənant] ⓘ; 24 March 1903 – 18 January 1995) was a German biochemist. 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. He was President of the Max Planck Society from 1960 to 1972. He was also the first, in 1959, to discover the structure of the sex pheromone of silkworms, which he named bombykol.
Education and early life
Born in Lehe, near Bremerhaven, he started his studies at the University of Marburg. For his PhD he joined the working group of the Nobel laureate Adolf Windaus at the University of Göttingen and he finished his studies with a PhD in chemistry in 1927. His doctoral research was on the chemistry of the insecticidal toxin found in the roots of Derris elliptica which he isolated and characterized. After his Habilitation he became lecturer in Göttingen 1931.
He became a professor ordinarius at the Technical University of Danzig 1933–1936. In 1933 Butenandt signed the Vow of allegiance of the Professors of the German Universities and High-Schools to Adolf Hitler and the National Socialistic State. In 1936 he applied for the directorship of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institut (later the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry) in Berlin-Dahlem while also joining the NSDAP on 1 May 1936 (party member No. 3716562). The earlier director of the Kaiser Wilhelm institute was Carl Neuberg, who had been removed for being a Jew. His work on rotenones was considered useful by the Nazi leadership as it could be useful for controlling lice among soldiers in the trenches. 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.
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. While working as professor in Danzig at the Chemisches Institut he was continuing his works over hormones extracting progesterone in 1934 and testosterone a year later, the research results were along with the synthesis of steroids by Leopold Ružička considered significant enough to be awarded later by Nobel Committee in 1939. In 1940 he was involved in research on a hormone treatment to make long submarine voyages more comfortable for submariners in the Kriegsmarine.
Butenand's 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. When the institute moved to Tübingen in 1945 he became a professor at the University of Tübingen. In 1948 he was considered for the chair for physiological medicine at the University of Basel. He entered in negotiations but eventually was convinced to stay the chemical industry to stay in Germany. 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 died in Munich in 1995, at the age of 91. His wife Erika, born in 1906, died in 1995 at 88.
Honours and awards
- 1939: Nobel Prize in Chemistry (shared with Leopold Ruzicka) for the identification of the sex hormones, oestrogen, progesterone and androsterone
- 1942: War Merit Cross, Second Class (Germany)
- 1943: War Merit Cross, First Class (Germany)
- 1953: Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize
- 1959: Grand Merit Cross with Star and Sash of the Federal Republic of Germany (1959 and 1964)
- 1960: Honorary Citizen of the City of Bremerhaven
- 1961: Wilhelm Normann Medal of the German Society for Fat Research
- 1962: Bavarian Order of Merit
- 1962: Pour le Mérite
- 1964: Austrian Decoration for Science and Art
- 1967: Cultural Award of the City of Munich
- 1969: Commander of the French Legion of Honour
- 1972: Ordre des Palmes Académiques
- 1981: Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art
- 1985: Grand Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
- 1985: Honorary Citizen of the City of Munich
- 1994: Grand Gold Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria
- 1951–1992: 31 participations in the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings (record)
- Honorary President of the Max Planck Society
- Honorary Doctor of Medicine (MD H.C.)
- Honorary Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (Dr. med.vet. H.C.)
- Honorary Doctor of Science (Dr. rer. Hc)
- Honorary Doctor of Philosophy (Dr. phil. H.C.)
- Honorary Doctor of Science (D.Sc.), University of Leeds, 1961
- Honorary Doctor of Engineering (Dr.-Ing. E.h.)
- Szöllösi-Janze, Margit (2001). Science in the Third Reich (German Historical Perspectives). Oxford, UK: Berg Publishers. ISBN 1-85973-421-9.
- Akhtar, M.; Akhtar, M. E. (1998). "Adolf Friedrich Johann Butenandt. 24 March 1903-18 January 1995". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 44: 79–92. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1998.0006. PMID 11623990.
- Karlson, P. (1995). "Adolf Butenandt (1903–1995)". Nature. 373 (6516): 660. Bibcode:1995Natur.373..660K. doi:10.1038/373660b0. PMID 7854440. S2CID 4349895.
- Jaenicke, L. (1995). "Adolf Butenandt: 24. 3. 1903 - 18. 1. 1995". Chemie in unserer Zeit. 29 (3): 163–165. doi:10.1002/ciuz.19950290313.
- Piosik, R. (2003). "Adolf Butenandt und sein Wirken an der Technischen Hochschule Danzig". Chemkon. 10 (3): 135–138. doi:10.1002/ckon.200390038.
- Mertens, L. (2003). "Nur"Zweite Wahl" oder Die Berufung Adolf Butenandts zum Direktor des KWI für Biochemie". Berichte zur Wissenschafts-Geschichte. 26 (3): 213–222. doi:10.1002/bewi.200390058.
- Trunk, A. (2006). "Biochemistry in Wartime: The Life and Lessons of Adolf Butenandt, 1936–1946". Minerva. 44 (3): 285–306. doi:10.1007/s11024-006-9002-2. S2CID 143929707.
- Butenandt, A. (1929). "Über "Progynon" ein krystallisiertes weibliches Sexualhormon". Die Naturwissenschaften. 17 (45): 879. Bibcode:1929NW.....17..879B. doi:10.1007/BF01506919. S2CID 2856469.
- Butenandt, A. (1931). "Über die chemische Untersuchung der Sexualhormone". Zeitschrift für Angewandte Chemie. 44 (46): 905–908. Bibcode:1931AngCh..44..905B. doi:10.1002/ange.19310444602.
- Simon, Christian (2009). "Aus der Geschichte der Universität Basel". Basler Zeitschrift für Geschichte und Altertumskunde (in German). Schwabe Verlag. pp. 9–10. Retrieved 20 April 2023.
- "Reply to a parliamentary question" (PDF) (in German). p. 166. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
- "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. ISBN 3-89244-752-7.