History of Inorganic Chemistry in Erlangen

The University of Erlangen-Nürnberg was founded in 1743 by margrave Friedrich von Brandenburg-Bayreuth and expanded 1769 by margrave Alexander of Brandenburg-Ansbach. There was a chemistry department when the university was founded, but no laboratory space for the first 100 years. Although the University provided equipment and chemicals, there was not enough money to construct laboratories. As a result, professors traditionally performed experiments at their home.

Despite these conditions chemistry in Erlangen flourished in the 1800’s.

Dr. Johann Friedrich Weißmann (1678 – 1760) was the first chemistry professor at the University. He researched dyes and characterized a dye that he called “Erlanger-Blau”, which was later found to be identical to Prussian Blue.

Friedrich Delius (1720 – 1791) had over 80 publications from research he completed in his home.

Georg Friedrich Hildebrandt (1764 – 1816) played an important role in the Chemistry and Medical departments and implemented Physics and Chemistry studies into the medical doctor students’ curriculum. He extensively studied mercury salts and analyzed mineral water.

At the end of the 1700’s and beginning of 1800’s the political atmosphere around Erlangen was in constant change. Erlangen was under changing commands of first the margrave, the Prussians, and then the French. In 1810 Erlangen and the surrounding region of Franconia was given to the kingdom of Bavaria. The future of the University was uncertain but despite political and financial uncertainties the Natural Sciences were quite active.

In the middle of the 19th Century, the formerly joint departments of Chemistry and Physics separated and Dr. E. V. Gorup-Besanez became the first Chair of Chemistry. The Chemistry Department grew rapidly over the next century, and in 1925 Dr. F. Heinrich became the first Chair of Inorganic Chemistry.

In 2001, researchers of the Inorganic-, Organic- and Physical Chemistry Institutes, became part of the Sonderforschungsbereich 583 (Research Initiative of the German Science Foundation) and were granted money for research related to “Redox-Active Metal Complexes” by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). The speaker of the first funding period was the chair of Inorganic Chemsitry Professor Dr. Dieter Sellmann.

In 2007 the University changed to a Bachelor/Master, Doctorate degree system. The Chairs of Inorganic Chemistry, along with the Chairs of Organic-, Physical-, Theoretical-, Pharmaceutical- and Food Chemistry as well as Pharmaceutical Technology became part of the newly formed Department of Chemistry and Pharmacy.