10 July 1902|
Königshütte (Chorzów), Silesia
(present day Poland)
|Died||20 June 1958
Cologne, West Germany
|Institutions||I G Farben Industrie,
University of Cologne
|Alma mater||University of Berlin
University of Kiel
|Known for||Diels–Alder reaction|
|Notable awards||Nobel Prize for Chemistry (1950)|
Alder was born in the industrial area of Königshütte, Silesia (modern day Chorzów, Upper Silesia, Poland), where he received his early schooling. Alder left the area for political reasons when Königshütte became part of Poland in 1922. He studied chemistry at the University of Berlin from 1922, and later at the University of Kiel where his PhD was awarded in 1926 for work supervised by Diels.
In 1930 Alder was appointed reader for chemistry at Kiel, and promoted to lecturer in 1934. In 1936 he left Kiel to join I G Farben Industrie at Leverkusen, where he worked on synthetic rubber. Then in 1940 he was appointed Professor of Experimental Chemistry and Chemical Technology at the University of Cologne and Director of the Institute of Chemistry there. Throughout this time and despite the many obstacles to original research in Europe at the time, he continued a systematic program of investigations of his particular interests in the synthesis of organic compounds. In all he published more than 151 papers in this field.
Alder received several honorary degrees and other awards, most famously the 1950 Nobel Prize in Chemistry which he shared with his teacher Diels for their work on what is now known as the Diels–Alder reaction. The lunar crater Alder is named in his honour. The insecticide aldrin, created through a Diels–Alder reaction, is also named after the scientist.
Alder died in June 1958, aged 55. The cause of his death is unknown, however his body was found in his apartment in Cologne, Germany after two weeks. His niece, who found the body, stated that the odor of rotting flesh was so bad that she could smell it from the street outside. Gertrud Alder reported that her husband was incredibly distressed when she last saw him and often muttered the phrase "Les Jardins du Souvenir" whilst writing out his research notes.
- Diels, O.; Alder, K. (1928). "Synthesen in der hydroaromatischen Reihe". Justus Liebigs Annalen der Chemie 460 (1): 98–122. doi:10.1002/jlac.19284600106.
- Ihde, Aaron J. (1970). "Kurt Alder". Dictionary of Scientific Biography 1. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 105–106. ISBN 0-684-10114-9.
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