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Rudolf Criegee

Rudolf Criegee

Rudolf Criegee
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Chemist
Was Chemist Educator
From Germany
Type Academia Science
Gender male
Birth 23 May 1902, Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Government Region, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Death 7 November 1975, Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe Government Region, Baden-Württemberg, Germany (aged 73 years)
The details (from wikipedia)


Rudolf Criegee (* May 23, 1902 in Düsseldorf; † November 7, 1975 in Karlsruhe) was a German organic chemist.

Life and work

Criegee's parents' house was wealthy, his father worked as a court director. The Criegee family was attuned national liberal, Prussian and Protestant, what Rudolf Criegee felt as a great fortune. His happy childhood was ended by the World War I, already in March 1915, his eldest brother died on the Western Front, a second brother was seriously injured in the summer of 1916. Criegee himself was still drafted by end of the war as a young man.

After the turmoil of the post-war period and the passed Abitur he matriculated at the University of Tübingen in chemistry in the summer semester 1920. After four semesters of study and moderate success, but the experience from the student fraternity Germania and twelve duels Criegee changed to the University of Greifswald. He remained there for three semesters and passed his first examination, after which he went to the University of Würzburg and received his PhD in December 1925 at Otto Dimroth with a thesis on acridinium salts. The joy about the successful completion was marred by the death of his father in 1926 and also his mother suffered from a serious illness, she died in 1932. Criegee remained in Würzburg and in 1930 he received his habilitation with a thesis on the „Oxydation ungesättigter Kohlenwasserstoffe mit Blei(IV)-Salzen“.

In 1928, Rudolf Criegee had married his former fellow student Marianne Henze. In 1932 he moved to the University of Marburg, where he was a senior assistant to Hans Meerwein. In November 1933, he was one of the Signatories of the commitment of the professors at German universities and colleges to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. In 1937 he received an associate professorship at the Technical University of Karlsruhe, but his work was interrupted by the World War II due to the two-time draft for military service again and again. In the summer of 1942, he was seriously wounded on the Eastern Front, his wife also died on February 10. Criegee was released for the research, but the institute was destroyed by bombs in the summer of 1944, and in December he married again.

During the rebuilding, he declined several calls to other universities and was appointed a full professor in 1947, from 1949 he led the Institute of Organic Chemistry. Rudolf Criegee continued to refuse all calls to other universities, the new building, in which the institute was located since 1966, originated among his leadership. Even after his retirement in 1969 Criegee carried out research until his death on November 7, 1975.

In his scientific work he was primarily involved with oxidation processes of organic compounds, where he used Lead(IV) acetate and Osmium tetroxide as Oxidizing agents . A focus was the investigation on the Autoxidation of unsaturated cyclic Hydrocarbons to Peroxides. One of his great achievements was the elucidation of the reaction mechanism for ozonolysis to form Ozonides The Criegee intermediate (or Criegee biradical) and the Criegee rearrangement are named after him. In this context, his research on cyclic reactions and cyclic rearrangement-mechanisms led him, independently of the Nobel Prize–winning work of R.B.Woodward and R.Hoffmann (Woodward–Hoffmann rules), to the same conclusions as theirs, but he failed to publish his findings in time.

In the last years of his scientific work, he investigated the chemistry of small carbon rings, especially Cyclobutadiene and its Derivatives.

Awards/Honorary degrees

  • Emil-Fischer-Medaille from the Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker in 1960
  • Universität Gießen in 1967
  • Universität München in 1972


  • Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities in 1962
  • Heidelberg Academy for Sciences and Humanities in 1955
  • German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in 1968
  • Honorable member of the New York Academy of Sciences in 1966


  • Die Einwirkung von Acridiniumsalzen auf kupplungsfähige Substanzen, Dissertation, Univ. Würzburg 1925
  • Oxydation ungesättigter Kohlenwasserstoffe mit Blei(4)salzen, Liebigs Ann. Chem. 481,263 (1930) doi:10.1002/jlac.19304810117
  • Die Umlagerung der Dekalin-peroxydester als Folge von kationischem Sauerstoff, Liebigs Ann. Chem. 560,127 (1948) doi:10.1002/jlac.19485600106
  • R. C. und G. Schröder: Ein kristallisiertes Primärozonid, Chem. Ber. 93,689 (1960) doi:10.1002/cber.19600930323
  • Mechanismus der Ozonolyse, Angew. Chem. 87,765 (1975) doi:10.1002/ange.19750872104; Angew. Chem.,Int. Ed. Engl. 14,745 (1975) doi:10.1002/anie.197507451
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