Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Top 5 depressed and nervous breakdown chemists

There already was a Top 5 suicide chemists and we decided to exclude them for this list. It will not be a surprise that 3 of the 5 committed suicide and that one possibly did.

Top 5 depressed and nervous breakdown chemists

1) Wallace Hume Carothers (1896–1937)

Du Pont's brilliant polymer researcher was obsessed with the idea that is work was useless. He wasn't laughing much on photographs. With his friend and colleague Julian Hill they produced Nylon that went in production in 1939. According to Hill, Carothers could list all the famous chemists who had committed suicide. He added himself to that list in 1937 by ingesting cyanide. He used to carry a capsule of the poison on his watch chain.

2) Archibald Scott Couper (1831-1892)
Scott is credited with inventing the use of straight lines to indicate bonds and he developed the theory of chemical structure, namely that tetravalent carbon atoms can link together to form large molecules. He did this work simultaneously with Kekulé's work. In 1859 Couper had a nervous breakdown and entered a private mental institution. When he was released 3 month later he immediately suffered another breakdown. In 1862 he was released again from the institution. The 30 years thereafter his mother cared for him, he never published again.

3) Max Joseph von Pettenkofer (1818-1901)

The chemist and hygienist never seems happy on photos. He is a founder of epidemiology and is known for his research on the spread of cholera. When he wanted to prove his incorrect belief that cholera spread via the atmosphere rather than directly from person to person he made a soup made from the excrement of a dying cholera patient and took it for dinner. He became very ill but survived. At the end of his life suffered from depressions and he finally shot himself.

4) Viktor Meyer (1848–1897)
The discoverer of thiophene and inventor of the Victor Meyer apparatus studied under August Wilhelm von Hofmann, and later worked for Robert Bunsen. He was a hard working man. He became an overworked man suffering from nervous breakdowns. He continued to work and took sleeping pills that further damaged his nervous system. Like Carothers he committed suicide by taking cyanide.

5) Primo Michele Levi (1919–1987)
The chemist and writer said in later life that he suffered from depressions and at took anti-depressants. Concerns for his own health and the fear that he would not be able to write anymore, the care for his old and senile mother and mother in law and his memories as a holocaust survivor were probably some of the causes of his depressions. In 1987 he fell from the interior landing of his third-story apartment in Turin to the ground floor. Possibly suicide.


milkshake said...

This list of failed dreams and wasted genius makes a sad reading and now I feel like doing myself the favour that I have been preparing for - I shall be one with the man in the wind and the west moon, I shall have stars at the elbow and foot...

synthetic environment said...

I like a good Dylan Thomas-quote. I like a good drink as well, but I prefer to live.

Ashutosh said...

Old chemists don't die...they just reach equilibrium

Drew said...

Don't forget Wolfgang Oppolzer.

Ashutosh said...

Didn't Oppolzer die of Mad Cow Disease?

Anonymous said...