Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts the sunlight into a chemical energy that plants store for later. Without photosynthesis, the world as we know it would not exist. All the plants would die and so would a major food and oxygen source. During Photosynthesis water is sucked up through the roots up the stem and to the leaves. The leaves take in carbon dioxide and begin to absorb sunlight. these things combine to make glucose and oxygen. The plant then uses the glucose and oxygen is expelled through the stomata of the plant as a waste product. In The leaves there are a very special pigment called chlorophyll.
Chlorophyll is responsible for the absorption of sunlight. Richard Martin Willstatter is the man responsible for studying these structures. Willstatter accepted a call to the Eidgenossische Technische Hochscuhle in Zurich as professor of chemistry in 1905. While he was there, he begun an investigation into the chemical nature of chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants that converts light into energy through photosynthesis. When Willstatter began researching chlorophyll, most scientists did not fully understand its structure. Some of them thought that one plant could have multiple types of chlorophyll.
Willstatter demonstrated that chlorophyll is made up of two components: chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b. Richard and his students developed methods for isolating chlorophyll from plant materials without changing it or introducing impurities. Willstatter proved that the chlorophyll from different plants was substantially the same. Willstatter examined over two hundred different kinds of plants during his study, and showed that the chlorophyll produced by different plants shares a certain common chemical structure. His findings demonstrated that the process of photosynthesis uses the same set of chemical reactions in every plant.
In 1916, Willstatter returned to Munich University. In 1924, however, he resigned from his post at the university in the face of anti-Semitic pressure. By 1938, anti-Semitic measures in Nazi Germany had become serious. In 1939, Willstatter had to flee, losing most of his property. He immigrated to Switzerland and moved to Locarno. There he wrote his autobiography, Aus meinem Leben (From My Life), published in 1949, after his death. Richard Martin Willstatter was born in Karslruhe, Germany on August 13, 1872. He was the second of two sons of Max and Sophie Ulmann Willstatter.
Willstatter’s father was a textile merchant and his mother’s family was in the textile business. Willstatter’s education began in the classical Gymnasium in Karlsruhe. When he was eleven years old, his father moved to New York in search of better economic opportunities and to escape the circumscribed life in Karlsruhe. As a boy, Willstatter proved to be a gifted student and tried to attend the best schools in Germany. Since he was a Jew, he was denied admission and was forced to attend public school. After graduation he entered the University of Munichiln 1980.
While in school he studied science under Nobel Prize-winning chemist Adolf von Baeyer. Serving as an assistant to Adolf von Baeyer at Munich, he continued research into the structure of alkaloids and synthesized several. Willstatter obtained his doctorate from the University of Munich in 1894 for work on the structure of cocaine. During Easter vacation in 1903 Willstatter met the Leser family from Heidelberg, and that summer he and Sophie Leser were married. Their son Ludwig was born in 1904 and their daughter, Margarete, in 1906. In 1905, he was given a professorship at the University of Zurich and began working on chlorophyll.
He elucidated its structure and showed that the blood pigment heme bears a structural resemblance to a compound found in chlorophyll. He was professor of chemistry in the University of Berlin and director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute at Berlin, where his investigations revealed the structure of many of the pigments of flowers and fruits. When his work was interrupted by the war, at the behest of Fritz Haber, he turned his attention to developing a gas mask. In the spring of 1915 Willstatter’s ten-year-old son, Ludwig, died suddenly, apparently from diabetes. Willstatter wrote that his memory of the months following was blurred.
Ironically, in November, while engaged in the work on gas masks, Willstatter learned that he had been awarded the 1915 Nobel Prize in chemistry in recognition of his work on chlorophylls and anthocyanin’s. Because of wartime conditions he did not travel to Stockholm to receive the prize until 1920, when a ceremony was held for a group of those who had been honored during the war. The research Richard Martin Willstatter did on chlorophyll was helpful in many ways. Chlorophyll plays an important role in photosynthesis because it is responsible for the absorption of sunlight. There are also two types of chlorophyll.
They are chlorophyll A and chlorophyll B. Without chlorophyll to absorb light, plants wouldn’t be able to live and the earth would not be able to sustain life. Chlorophyll also plays a major role in the plants growth. It allows the absorption of the light that is needed to make glucose. Glucose is used as energy that the plant needs for growth. Richard Martin Willstatter research he did on chlorophyll won a Nobel peace prize because the structure and importance of chlorophyll was still unknown or very unclear to many. His research clarified the structure and the importance of chlorophyll in the process we call photosynthesis.