1876-1954

Otto Paul Hermann Diels

Location: Second Floor, West Wing, South Wall, Sequence 8

Source: Professor P. E. Fanta and the Wilkens-Anderson Company


Diels was the scientific mentor of Kurt Alder (see portrait) and together they discovered the reaction which bears their names, the Diels-Alder (DA) reaction. For this they jointly received the 1950 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Diels was born in Hamburg, Germany into an academic family (his father was a professor of classical philology in Berlin, and two brothers also became professors). He obtained the Ph.D. (1899) at the University of Berlin with the great Emil Fischer (see portrait), after which he was appointed to the faculty there. In 1907 his textbook "Einführung in die Organische Chemie" was published; it became one of the most popular texts in its field and, by 1962, had gone through 19 editions. In 1916 Diels became director of the Institute of Chemistry at the University of Kiel, where he remained until his retirement.

Besides the DA reaction, Diels is also known for having discovered carbon suboxide (C3O2) and for his early research on the structure of cholesterol, especially for the use of selenium (rather than sulfur) for dehydrogenations, and for Diels' hydrocarbon (3'-methyl-1,2-cyclopentenophenanthrene) which he obtained from cholesterol by that technique.