Maria Kobel

Maria Kobel (1897-1996): The "Beilstein" is also her work

From Berlin to Frankfurt am Main: The biochemist Maria Kobel worked on ?Beilstein's Handbook for Organic Chemistry? for over three decades.

Maria Kobel was born on August 5th, 1897 as the eldest of ten siblings in Liegnitz, Lower Silesia (now Legnica in Polish). She studied chemistry in Breslau (now Wroclaw in Poland) from 1918 to 1921 and received her doctorate in 1921 with the thesis ?On the substances called glyoxylurea in literature?. In the same year she moved to Berlin.

Her excellent academic and doctoral achievements did not go unnoticed and in 1924 she got a job with the biochemist Carl Neuberg (1877-1956), a student of Alfred Wohl (1863-1939), at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute (KWI) for experimental studies Therapy in Berlin-Dahlem. A short time later the institute was renamed KWI for biochemistry . From 1929 to 1936 Kobel headed the tobacco research department there.

Neuberg was Kobel's academic mentor until his release in 1934 and his expulsion due to his Jewish origins. Their joint research focus was on the phosphoric acid esters of glycerol (common name glycerine). Kobel and Neuberg jointly published specialist articles with titles such as ?Phosphoric acid esters of the carbohydrate metabolism? or ?The ferments and their effects?. In Neuberg's extensive list of publications, it is noticeable that women often participated in his publications. Compared to other institutes of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, Neuberg's institute had more women scientists. In addition, a relatively large number of female students received their doctorate at the KWI for biochemistry . Kobel remained on friendly terms with her mentor until his death in 1956.

Even before he emigrated, Neuberg managed to accommodate Kobel at the ?Hofmann House? in Berlin. The house at Sigismundstrasse 4 was the seat of the German Chemical Society until 1945, which August Wilhelm von Hofmann (1818-1892) had co-founded. Her treatises, which she published in the four-volume manual ?Methods of Ferment Research? published in 1941, testify to Kobel's scientific creativity.

From 1941 on, Kobel was an employee and later a department head in the Editorial staff of ?Beilstein's Handbook of Organic Chemistry?. The work, briefly referred to as "Beilstein" by chemists, is a comprehensive catalog of compounds of organic chemistry, which is continued today as the Beilstein database. With the support of the Frankfurt Nobel Prize winner Otto Hahn (1879-1968), the Beilstein Institute was founded in 1951 in Frankfurt am Main in the form of a foundation. As an employee of the institute, Kobel helped design the ?Beilstein?. Until the mid-1970s she was named as the author and editor of Beilstein's Handbook of Organic Chemistry.

Maria Kobel died shortly after her 99th birthday on August 14, 1996 in Kronberg im Taunus.


  • H. Conrads, B. Lohff: Carl Neuberg - biochemistry, Politics and History. The life and work of an almost displaced researcher, Steiner, Stuttgart, 2006
  • M. Engel: History of Dahlem, Berlin-Verlag, Berlin, 1984
  • A. Vogt: Scientists in Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes AZ, 2nd extended edition, Archive for the History of the Max Planck Society, Berlin, 2008, pp. 98-100
  • E. Baman, K. Myrbäck (editor): The methods of fermentation research, four volumes, Thieme, Leipzig, 1941

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The texts published in this series do not claim to be scientific publications. Authors and other people involved are not experts in the history of science. The purpose of the series is to introduce the mostly unknown women chemists and to remind you of the well-known women chemists. We encourage readers who want to know more to study academic Literature on the women featured. In some cases there are detailed chemical-historical works.

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last modified: 20.08.2021 16:43 H from M.Fries