On Google’s home page today is a cool looking Doodle, special Google logo, for Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge. Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge was a German analytical chemist who identified caffeine. Caffeine is a big deal for most of us, so we have Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge to thank for that.
He was born on February 8, 1794 in Hamburg, Germany and passed at the age of 73 on March 25, 1867 in Oranienburg, Germany.
He identified the mydriatic (pupil dilating) effects of belladonna (deadly nightshade) extract, identified caffeine, and discovered the first coal tar dye (aniline blue). Google wrote:
Runge was born outside of Hamburg on this day in 1795. The son of a Lutheran pastor, he expressed interest in chemistry from an early age and began conducting experiments as a teenager.
During one such experiment, Runge accidentally splashed a drop of belladonna extract in his eye, taking note of its pupil-dilating effects. Ten years later, while studying under renown chemist and inventor Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner at the University of Jena, Runge was asked to reproduce belladonna’s effects s part of a demonstration for one of Döbereiner’s friends: the writer and polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Impressed by the 25-year-old chemist, Goethe handed Runge a bag of rare coffee beans and suggested he analyze their chemical makeup. Shortly thereafter, Runge isolated the active ingredient we know today as caffeine!
After earning his doctorate from the University of Berlin, Runge went on to teach at the University of Breslau until 1831 when he left academia to take a position at a chemical company. During this time, he invented the first coal tar dye and a related process for dyeing clothes. His contributions to the world also include: being one of the first scientists to isolate quinine (a drug used to treat malaria), considered an originator of paper chromatography (an early technique for separating chemical substances), and even devising a method for extracting sugar from beet juice.
Here’s to Runge, without whom the pain of forgoing one’s morning cup of coffee might never have had a scientific explanation!
Yay to Caffeine!
Forum discussion at Twitter.