September 21, 1996 - Death of Erika Cremer, tireless in her research on gas chromatography

He was born into a family of scientists and university professors, his father being a professor of physiology and the inventor of the glass electrode.

He enrolled at the University of Berlin to study chemistry and was able to attend lectures by Fritz Haber, Walther Nernst, Max Planck, Max von Laue, and Albert Eisntein. He received his doctorate magna cum laude in 1927, under the supervision of Max Bodenstein (the first to postulate a chain reaction mechanism).

He was able to publish a paper on his thesis on the kinetics of the hydrogen-chlorine reaction, only because he concluded that this was a chain reaction, which was still considered a very new concept at the time.

He remained in Germany to work at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry, in the electrochemistry department with Karl Friedrich Bonhoeffer to analyze the quantum theoretical problems of photochemistry, and later worked with Michael Polanyi at the Haber Institute, where they investigated the conversion of hydrogen and ortho -hydrogen in a spin state in para-hydrogen.

In 1933, the Nazi party came to power in Germany and the institute was dissolved due to its anti-Nazi reputation. After that, she Erika was unable to find a job or continue her research.

In 1937, he returned to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry to collaborate with Otto Hahn in studying traces of radioactive compounds. Shortly thereafter he changed labs to concentrate on isotope separation.

In 1938, the University of Berlin gave her the qualification that would lead to a teaching position, however, the Nazi government at the time had passed a law on the legal status of public servants that prohibited women from holding positions of responsibility. responsibility such as professorships and required women to resign once they were married. For this reason, many scientists and academics were left unemployed or limited in their professional future.

In 1940, after World War II began, male scientists and professors were recruited which resulted in Erika being able to obtain a teaching position at the University of Innsbruck (Austria). However, it was temporary because once the war was over and the men returned home, she would have to leave her job.

At Innsbruck he investigated the hydrogenation of acetylene, but had trouble separating two gases with similar heats of adsorption using known methods. The same university as his was doing research on liquid absorption chromatography and that gave him an idea to devise another method of gas separation using an inert carrier gas as the mobile phase. For this purpose, he developed mathematical relationships and equations and instrumentation for the first gas chromatograph.

In 1944, he attempted to publish a paper on his discoveries, but the printing press was destroyed during an aerial bombardment and it could not be done until 32 years later, in 1976, at which time it was considered a historical document.

That same year, 1944, the university facilities were also severely damaged in an aerial bombardment and at the end of the war, Erika, as a German citizen, was not allowed to use the few remaining facilities. Fritz Prior was one of her students and also a high school chemistry teacher who chose Cremer's gas chromatograph idea for her dissertation. Therefore, until the university facilities were operational again, Cremer and Fritz collaborated in the high school laboratory to continue their studies.

When the university partially reopened, Erika still couldn't go for her citizenship so she secretly visited the university in a delivery truck to further her research.

In 1945, she was able to return to university legally, and she and Fritz were able to complete a very novel method for qualitative and quantitative analysis and measurement in 1947. This was completed by a thesis by another of her students, Roland Müller, on the analytical possibilities of the chromatograph. of gases.

Erika Cremer was appointed Professor and Director of the Innsbruck Institute of Chemistry in 1951.

He presented his discoveries and those of his students in various articles and scientific meetings, but the community responded negatively, believing that the methods used so far were sufficient.

In 1952, Martin and his partner Richard Laurence Millington Synge won the Nobel Prize for partition chromatography, which is often credited for introducing the use of gas as a mobile phase (Erika Cremer's idea).

It is believed that Cremer's works were not taken into account because he did not expose his ideas to the right people or in the right places. Austrian scientists were not focused on gases, so his proposals did not have much interest and communication between scientists after the war was quite poor.

Cremer and his students coined the concept "relative retention time" and how to calculate peak area by multiplying peak height by peak width at half height in gas chromatography. Furthermore, they demonstrated the relationship between the measurement and the temperature of the spine and also invented headspace analysis.

If you want to know more about this scientist, click on the following link: Erika Cremer

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