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Paul Karrer , Chemistry Stamps

Paul Karrer (April 21, 1889June 18, 1971) was a Swiss organic chemist best known for his work on vitamins. He and Walter Haworth won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1937.



Karrer was born in Moscow, Russia on April 21, 1889. His parents, Paul Karrer and Julie Lerch, were Swiss nationals.


In 1892 Karrer's family returned to Switzerland where he was educated at Wildegg and at the grammar school in Lenzburg, Aarau, where he matriculated in 1908. He studied chemistry at the University of Zurich under Alfred Werner and after gaining his Ph.D. in 1911, he spent a further year as assistant in the Chemical Institute. He then took a post as chemist with Paul Ehrlich at the Georg Speyer Haus, Frankfurt-am-Main. In 1919 he became Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Chemical Institute.


Karrer's early research concerned complex metal compounds but his most important work has concerned plant pigments, particularly the yellow carotenoids. He elucidated their chemical structure showed that some of these substances are transformed in the body into vitamin A. His work led to the establishment of the correct constitutional formula for beta-carotene, the chief precursor of vitamin A; the first time that the structure of a vitamin or provitamin had been established. George Wald worked briefly in Karrer's lab while studying the role of vitamin A in the retina. Later, Karrer confirmed the structure of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and extended his researches into the vitamin B2 and E. His important contributions to the chemistry of the flavins led to identification of lactoflavin as part of the complex originally thought to be vitamin B2.

Published Work

He published very many papers, and received many honours and awards, including the Nobel Prize in 1937. His textbook Lehrbuch der Organischen Chemie (Textbook of Organic Chemistry) was published in 1927, went through thirteen editions, and was published in seven languages.

Marriage and Death

He was married, with two sons. He died June 18 1971.


* Shampo, M A & Kyle, R A (2000), "Paul Karrer--research on vitamins.", Mayo Clin. Proc. 75 (4): 328, 2000 Apr, PMID:10761480, <>

* Isler, O (1978), "Paul Karrer, 21 April 1889--18 June 1971.", Biographical memoirs of fellows of the Royal Society. Royal Society (Great Britain) 24: 245-321, 1978, PMID:11615740, <>

* Schmid, H (1972), "[Paul Karrer, 1889-1971]", Bulletin der Schweizerischen Akademie der Medizinischen Wissenschaften 28 (5): 367-70, 1972 Sep, PMID:4566692, <>

* Roche, J (1972), "[Paul Karrer (1889-1971)]", Bull. Acad. Natl. Med. 156 (4): 89-92, 1972 Feb 1, PMID:4565808, <>

* KARRER, P; VISCONTINI, M & HOCHREUTER, R, "[Crystallized 3-carboxamide-N1-D-ribosidopyridinium bromide and related compounds.]", Biochim. Biophys. Acta 12 (1-2): 51-5, PMID:13115412, <>

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