Fritz Pregl

Fritz Pregl

Austrian chemist awarded the 1923 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for developing techniques in the microanalysis of organic compounds.
As a result of an interest in biological substances that could only be obtained in extremely small quantities, he had to decide whether to process tons of raw materials or search for new analytical methods that would be reliable on minute quantities. He chose the latter approach, and over the years developed new microanalytical methods for elemental analysis (C, H, N, halogens, etc.) that we now take for granted. He also developed microanalytical methods for functional groups and for molecular weights. His monograph "Quantitative Organic Microanalysis", first published in 1917, went through at least 7 editions and was translated from the original German into various languages, including English, French and Russian.

Pregl received his M.D. from the University of Graz (1893), with which he was associated for most of his professional life and where he became director of the Medico-Chemical Institute in 1913. About 1904 he began researches on bile acids and other substances. The difficulty of obtaining these materials in quantities sufficient for the use of conventional analytic techniques impelled him to devise analytic methods requiring only minute amounts. By 1912 he was able to make reliable measurements of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and sulfur with only 7-13 milligrams of starting material. His breakthrough eventually enabled scientists to begin work with tenths of milligrams of material. Pregl also developed a sensitive microbalance and micromethods for measuring atomic groups and devised a simple method for determining the functional capacities of kidneys.

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