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From My Life: The Memoirs of Richard Willstätter by Richard Willstätter (edited in the original German by Arthur Stoll, translated from the german by Lilli S. Hornig; 175,000 words, 32 photographs)

In these memoirs, written after the author's dramatic emigration to Switzerland in 1939, Richard Willstätter (1872-1942) recounts his childhood in a Jewish family in Karlsruhe, his developing interest in chemistry, and his studies under Adolf von Baeyer, his mentor at the University of Munich. Willstätter writes only briefly about the tragic early deaths of his beloved wife and of his young son, but describes in detail his work as a leading organic chemist tackling difficult problems in plant pigments, chlorophyll, enzymes and more (in Zurich, Berlin and Munich where he succeeded his mentor) and his training of dozens of young chemists. In 1924, he resigned from the University of Munich in face of increasing antisemitism. The book offers candid portraits of major fellow chemists, including Willstätter’s close friend Fritz Haber, also a Nobel prize laureate, and describes life in German research universities before the Nazis' persecution of Jewish scholars decimated them.


“The book goes far beyond a chronicle of events in Willstätter’s life; it is a valuable contribution to the history of chemistry...” —
Nature

“[Willstätter’s] story is a reflection of the glory and the tragedy that is modern German history... These memoirs, which are truly an inside story of German chemical scholarship, are filled with delightful personal reminiscences and interesting anecdotes about the great chemists Willstätter was associated with during the course of his remarkable career.” — David H. Kenny, Journal of Chemical Education

“This autobiography is one of the outstanding books printed in Germany in recent years and it [provides] an insight into the thinking and working methods of a great scientist...” — The Chemist

“Great scientists are rare, but great writers among them are almost unique. Willstätter’s autobiography, published posthumously and edited by his former student, Arthur Stoll, is an extremely moving book... This wonderful book... could, with profit, be made adjunct reading in an advanced organic chemistry course.” —
Record of Chemical Progress

“[Willstätter’s] knowledge of chemistry and chemical problems was encyclopedic, and as unlimited as the kindness he showed me... At a meeting of the [Munich] university senate some time in 1928 a discussion had arisen about the appointment of a mineralogist. A candidate was proposed, a front rank mineralogist by the name of Goldschmidt. As soon as the name was mentioned a murmur arose in the meeting and someone remarked:
‘Wieder ein Jude!’ (another Jew). Without saying a word Willstätter rose, collected his papers and left the room. He never crossed the threshold of the university again... Although his reputation was immense, and he was a Nobel prize winner, he was modest, unassuming and retiring in character; he often reminded me of the old-time venerable type of great Jewish Rabbi. For a long time Willstätter refused to understand what was taking place in Germany... to my repeated and insistent pleas that he leave Germany and come to us in Palestine, he turned a deaf ear. He came to the opening of the [Daniel Sieff Research, later Weizmann] Institute [in Rehovot] and returned to Germany (in 1934!). He still felt that he was protected by his reputation and by the devotion of the Munich public... His last word on the subject was: ‘I know that Germany has gone mad, but if a mother falls ill it is not a reason for her children to leave her. My home is Germany, my university, in spite of what has happened, is in Munich. I must return.’” — Chaim Weizmann, Trial and Error