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  Wikipedia: Vladimir Prelog

Wikipedia: Vladimir Prelog
Vladimir Prelog
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Vladmir Prelog (July 23 1906 - January 7 1998) won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1975. He was born in Sarajevo, at that time within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He died in Zurich, Switzerland


In 1915, as a child, Prelog moved to Zagreb. Educated in Zagreb and Osijek, he graduated from the Czech Institute of technology in Prague (Praha or Prag) in 1929, receiving a degree as a chemical engineer. His teacher was Emil Votoček, while his assistant Rudolf Lukeš introduced him to the world of organic chemistry.

After gaining the SC. D of doctor in chemistry, he started to work in the private plant laboratory of G.J. Dríza in Prague, in charge of the production of rare chemicals that were not available on the market at that time. His pastime was spent in his own research. Here, following his interest in the chemistry of natural compounds, he started investigating alkaloids from the cacao bark.


In 1935, he was invited to join the Technical Faculty (tehnicki fakultet) of the University of Zagreb. Prelog accepted the post of lecturer in organic chemistry and, at the same time, started to work in the Institut za Organsku Kemiju. He also taught students of chemical engineering.

With the help of collaborators and students, and financially sponsored by the pharmaceutical factory "Kašel" (currently Pliva), he started research of quinine and its compounds. Final works with the industry yielded a financially successful production of Streptazol, one of the first commercial sulfonylamides. Scientific work here was crowned with the first synthesis of adamantane, a hydrocarbone with an unusual alicyclic structure, being isolated from Moravian oil.

The results of Prelog's work have been published in the top European chemical literature and journals, while the organic chemistry developed in Zagreb at that time was well known and identifiable around the world.


In 1941, he accepted the invitation of Lavoslav Ruzicka and left for Zurich, to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH). He was promoted, starting as private senior lecturer and ending up becoming professor. After Ružička's retirement in 1957, Prelog took over the organic chemistry laboratory where he expanded its activity to unusual areas: heterocyclic compounds, alkaloids, alicyclic compounds, and the isolation and study of biochemically active compounds found in smaller quantities in animal organisms. He also studied the structure of antibiotics and the stereochemistry of enzyme reactions.

His research has contributed to the explanation of the structure of steroids, triterpene, quinine, strichnine, solanine and other alkaloids. He introduced so-called Prelog's regulation, which defines the conformational relations between reactants and products.

Working with Robert Cahn and Sir Christopher Ingold, he formulated the so-called CIP system, applied generally in stereometry. Thanks to him and Ružička, both Nobel prize winners of Croatia, Zurich has become one of the most significant centers of modern organic chemistry.

Nobel prize winner

Prelog received the 1975 Nobel prize for chemistry for his works in the field of natural compounds and stereochemistry, sharing it with the British research chemist J.W.Cornforth. His scientific opus encompasses more than 400 works. Lecturer of distinctive style and eloquence, he trained many generations of chemists. In 1986, he became an honorary member of the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences (Hrvatska Akademija Znanosti i Umjetnosti).

The ordinary person

As a private person, he was source of anecdotes about almost all eminent chemists all over the world. An intellectual with a wide cultural background, he never insisted on authority and was unused to confrontation. He was one of the 109 Nobel prize winners who have signed the peace appeal for Croatia in 1991. As an introspective person, he rarely allowed people to get an insight into his inner life. His attitude to human nature was slightly ironical and cynical due his suspiciousness of high social, political or religious aspirations. Urn containing Prelog's ashes had been ceremoniously interred in Zagreb Mirogoj cemetery September 27th 2001.

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 
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