Marika Geldmacher-von Mallinckrodt

Marika Geldmacher-von Mallinckrodt (1923-2016): A feeling for poisons

Marika Geldmacher-von Mallinckrodt

She was a professor at the University of Erlangen, had two doctorates and five children: The toxicologist Marika Geldmacher-von Mallinckrodt was able to detect traces of the insecticide parathion in the blood, a once common drug for murders.

Marika Geldmacher-von Mallinckrodt (née Mallinckrodt-Haupt) was born on April 28, 1923 in Potsdam. She was the oldest of five children of the chief forester Johann Dietrich von Mallinckrodt and the well-known dermatologist Asta von Mallinckrodt-Haupt (1896-1960), who became Germany's first female dermatology professor in 1941. When the Second World War broke out, Marika was with one of her brothers visiting her grandmother in Bamberg. Her mother was currently in the USA and the father decided that the two children should not return to Cologne, where the family lived at the time, because of the war. In March 1940, the almost 17-year-old passed her Abitur at the New Gymnasium in Bamberg. Then she was drafted into the Reich Labor Service. She dreamed of studying medicine, but would have had to work four weeks longer, which she didn't like at all. Therefore, from 1940 she studied chemistry in Cologne and Munich.

In December 1942 she met Herbert Geldmacher, a civil engineer with a doctorate, whom she married in 1943. Geldmacher-von Mallinckrodt passed her diploma examination in Munich in 1944. However, the subsequent doctorate did not make any progress. On the one hand, the young chemist had meanwhile had her first child, and on the other hand, the working and living conditions in Munich deteriorated, as both the chemical institute and the apartment were badly damaged by bombs.

Geldmacher-von Mallinckrodt fled with her child to her grandmother's in Bamberg, where her second child was born in 1945. At the University of Erlangen she undertook another, this time successful, doctoral attempt with Alwin Meuwsen, a well-known inorganic chemist. He is said to have said: ?Ms. Geldmacher, she may have betrayed me, she hid from me that she has two children! If I had known, I would not have taken it. ?On July 1, 1948, Geldmacher-von Mallinckrodt was awarded his doctorate.

Since, from her point of view, there were no positions for chemists in the chemical industry except in the libraries, Geldmacher-von Mallinckrodt enrolled in 1949 to study medicine at the University of Erlangen. In July 1954 she received her doctorate again, this time in Medicine. In the same year she gave birth to her third child, the fourth in 1957 and the fifth in 1966. Obviously, the two-time doctorate managed to reconcile work and family. From 1954 to 1963 she worked as a research assistant at the University of Erlangen, most recently at the Institute for Forensic Medicine and Criminology. In 1964 she was granted the license to teach forensic chemistry, six years later she was given a professorship and, in 1978, finally a C3 professorship.

Geldmacher-von Mallinckrodt built the forensic medicine institute at the University of Erlangen, where she worked for a total of 25 years, into an important center for clinical-toxicological analysis with funds from the German Research Foundation. She received great recognition for the development of the detection of the smallest amounts of the insecticide parathion (E 605) in the blood, a once widespread drug for murders and suicides. In addition to forensic Toxicology as well as forensic and clinical-toxicological analysis, ecogenetics was one of her main research areas. The subject deals with the genetically determined reactions of the human organism to environmental influences.

In 1985 Geldmacher von Mallinckrodt retired. More than 130 publications as well as numerous textbooks testify to her scientific creativity. In 1987 she received the Federal Cross of Merit on ribbon for her research results in analytics and Toxicology . Marika Geldmacher-von Mallinckrodt died at the age of 93 on December 23, 2016 in Erlangen.


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

Project management
Dr. Karin J. Schmitz (GDCh Public Relations)

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Photo: Marika Geldmacher-von Mallinckrodt, from female chemists - they existed and there are, brochure of the German Chemical Society (GDCh), 2003, p. 32

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last modified: 05.07.2021 11:16 H from K.J.Schmitz