Swiss chemist and joint recipient, with Adolf Butenandt of Germany,
of the 1939 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work on ringed molecules,
terpenes (a class of hydrocarbons found in the essential oils of many
plants), and sex hormones.
Ruzicka's investigations of natural odoriferous compounds, begun in
1916, culminated in the discovery that the molecules of muskone and
civetone, important to the perfume industry, contain rings of 15 and
17 carbon atoms, respectively. Before this discovery, rings with more
than eight atoms had been unknown and indeed had been believed to be
too unstable to exist. Ruzicka's discovery greatly expanded research
on these compounds. He also showed that the carbon skeletons of terpenes
and many other large organic molecules are constructed from multiple
units of isoprene. In the mid-1930s Ruzicka discovered the molecular
structure of several male sex hormones, notably testosterone and androsterone,
and subsequently synthesized them.
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