Almuth Klemer

Almuth Klemer (born 1924): The sugar chemist

Almuth Klemer was the first woman to do her habilitation in chemistry at the University of Münster. Grateful for her successful university career, she set up a foundation in old age to support chemistry students and needy school children.

Almuth Klemer was born on February 12, 1924 in the small town of Bassum in Lower Saxony. Even as a girl she was interested in the natural sciences - an inclination that her parents encouraged. Klemer passed her Abitur in February 1942. Two months later, however, she had to do the labor service for a year. Only then could she begin her chemistry studies at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen.

An orderly teaching and study program was soon no longer possible in Gießen. The city was almost completely destroyed by heavy air raids in 1944 and the university dissolved at the end of the war. In the turmoil of the last days of the war, Klemer managed to return home. In order to secure her livelihood, she first worked in a steel mill. At the same time, she attended the courses offered for war returnees to improve her knowledge of Physics and mathematics. In the winter semester 1945/46 she received the longed-for notification for matriculation in the subjects of Physics, mathematics and chemistry at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität (WWU) Münster - according to the criteria of professional supervision for women, however, only for a teaching degree.

Klemer is described by your fellow students as comradely, enthusiastic and able to work in a team. She got along very well with the modest, almost poor equipment in the laboratories and in the evening conversations she convinced her academic teachers of her natural science talent. The professors soon approved of the change from studying teaching to the ?full chemistry? of the University of Münster. After graduating in 1950, she immediately began her doctoral thesis entitled ?On the synthesis of sugar-amino acid compounds and a new process for the preparation of sugar anhydrides?. Klemer received his doctorate in 1952. Your doctoral supervisor was Fritz Micheel (1900-1982), who headed the Institute for Organic Chemistry at the WWU from 1937 to 1968 and who played a decisive role in the reconstruction of organic chemistry in Münster after the war.

From then on, Klemer's research concentrated on the synthesis and breakdown of sugar molecules. In 1958 she was the first woman to do her habilitation in chemistry at the WWU. She published excerpts from her habilitation thesis entitled "Synthesis of a trisaccharide with a branched structure (4-?, 6-?-bis-D-glucosido-D-glucose)". She remained loyal to the University of Münster her entire life as a researcher: in 1963 she was appointed scientific advisor, a year later an adjunct professor and in 1980 she was appointed full professor of organic chemistry. For almost thirty years, until 1986, Klemer taught and researched as a professor at the University of Münster. During this time she supervised 54 doctoral students.

In addition to almost 100 scientific publications, Klemer has authored and co-authored numerous textbooks and research reports on the chemistry of carbohydrates. In addition, she dealt intensively with the position of women in science and wrote a monograph on this that was well worth reading at the end of the 1960s. She got to know the dark side of a life in the service of science herself: She remained unmarried and childless.

In 1970, Klemer was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit on ribbon for her scientific and social commitment. Since 2014 she has been promoting education, science and research in her subject with the Almuth Klemer Foundation, among other things by awarding the Almuth Klemer scholarship to chemistry students at the WWU. Klemer also supports needy school children from the Göttingen district with their private assets. "I am grateful for a successful professional life that would not have been possible without a scholarship and support from the Fonds der Chemischen Industrie," she emphasizes. With the establishment of her foundation, she wants to give something back: "I think it is important that talent is promoted through performance incentives".

Almuth Klemer turned 97 in February 2021. She spends her retirement in familiar surroundings at home.

Dezember 2014: Übergabe der Anerkennungsurkunde an die Stifterin (2.v.l.) durch den Regierungspräsidenten Prof. Dr. Reinhard Klenke (r.) im Beisein der Rektorin der WWU Prof. Dr. Ursula Nelles (3.v.l.) und des Vorstandsmitgliedes der Stiftung Prof. Dr. Armido Studer (l.).
Foto: Bezirksregierung Münster


  • C. Wiethoff: Chemist from body and soul - Professor Almuth Klemer, in: Let them think: 100 years of studies for women in Münster, S. Happ, V. Jüttemann (editor), Aschendorff, 2009, pp. 301-303
  • A. Klemer: The position of women in science and research, in: Yearbook North Rhine Westphalia / State Office for Research, 6 (1968), pp. 195-207

The texts published in this series do not claim to be scientific publication. Authors and other persons involved are not experts in the history of science. The purpose of the series is to introduce the mostly unknown chemists and to remind them of the well-known chemists. We encourage readers who want to know more to study scientific sources on the women presented. In some cases there are detailed chemical-historical studies.

Prof. Dr. Eberhard Ehlers
Prof. Dr. Heribert Offermanns

Editorial editing
Dr. Uta Neubauer

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Dr. Karin J. Schmitz (GDCh Public Relations)

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last modified: 05.07.2021 11:17 H from K.J.Schmitz