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Adolf Butenandt

Adolf ButenandtAKA Adolf Friedrich Johann Butenandt

Born: 24-Mar-1903
Birthplace: Wesermünde, Germany
Died: 18-Jan-1995
Location of death: Munich, Germany
Cause of death: Illness

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Chemist

Nationality: Germany
Executive summary: Research in sex hormones

German chemist Adolf Butenandt studied under Adolf Windaus, and isolated and synthesized numerous sexual hormones. This greatly increased the scientific understanding of human sexuality and reproduction, and earned Butenandt the 1939 Nobel Prize for Chemistry (shared with Leopold Ruzicka). In 1929 he isolated oestrone, a form of estrogen, a hormone crucial to female sexual development also discovered by Edward A. Doisy at about the same time. In 1931 he isolated androsterone, a male hormone, and in 1934 he isolated progesterone and testosterone. His work with hormones made possible the development of contraceptive pills and the creation of cortisone, a synthetic medication used to treat arthritis.

In 1959 he discovered Bombyx mori, a sexual attractant in silkworm moth and the first proven pheromone (chemical released by an animal that influences the behavior of others in its species). He also studied cancer and viruses. Evidence suggests that blood samples used in his research came from the victims at the Auschwitz concentration camp, and that Butenandt was aware of this as he conducted his research.

Father: Otto Louis Max Butenandt (businessman)
Mother: Wilhelmina Thomfohrde Butenandt
Wife: Erika von Ziegner (lab worker, m. 1931, two sons, five daughters)
Daughter: Anke
Son: Eckart
Daughter: Heide
Daughter: Imme
Daughter: Ina
Daughter: Maike
Son: Otfrid

    High School: Bremerhaven Oberrealschule, Bremerhaven, Germany (1921)
    University: BS, University of Marburg (1925)
    University: PhD Chemistry, University of Göttingen (1927)
    Teacher: Chemistry, University of Göttingen (1927-33)
    Professor: Organic Chemistry, Gdańsk Institute of Technology (1933-36)
    Administrator: Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry (1936-60)
    Professor: Physiological Chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry (1936-60)

    Austrian Academy of Science Foreign Member
    New York Academy of Sciences Foreign Member
    Royal Society Foreign Member (1968)
    Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science (President, 1960-72)
    National Socialist German Workers Party party member #3716562 (1-May-1936)
    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1939 (with Leopold Ruzicka)
    Grand Cross for Federal Services with Star 1959
    Harnack Medal (Silver, 1973)
    Harnack Medal (Gold, 1983)


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