Edmund Oscar von Lippmann

Edmund Oscar von Lippmann, c. 1920

Edmund Oscar von Lippmann (January 9, 1857 in Vienna – September 24, 1940 in Halle) was a German chemist and natural science historian.[1] For his writings he was awarded a couple honoris causa doctorates from German universities, as well as the Leibniz Medal and the Sudhoff Medal.[1][2]


He studied at the ETH Zurich and obtained a doctorate in 1878 under Robert Bunsen at Heidelberg University. Lippmann ran large sugar refineries, in Duisburg and later in Halle. During this phase of his career he was granted the title of professor in 1901.[1] In 1904, Lippmann founded the Berlin Sugar Museum, still open today.[3] From 1926–1933, he taught as a volunteer at Martin Luther University in Halle. In 1935, under the new Nazi regime he was stripped of the authority to teach because of his Jewish ancestry.[citation needed]

In 1878 Lippmann published his first edition of what would become a reference monograph on sugar chemistry in his time. The 3rd edition of this work, published in 1904 in two volumes was 2000 pages long and attempted to cover every aspect of what had become a vast field. A contemporary review in Science noted that "With a modesty as charming as it is rare, he states in his preface: 'Completeness could not be attained in any direction', and yet this work is the most thorough of all works ever published on the chemistry of sugars", concluding that it was "rivaled by few, excelled by none".[4]

In 1890 Lippmann wrote an extremely detailed and influential history of sugar processing, Geschichte des Zuckers: seiner Darstellung und Verwendung, seit den ältesten Zeiten bis zum Beginn der Rübenzucker Fabrikation (History of sugar from the ancient times until the beginning of beet sugar production). To make it more accessible, he wrote an abridged version in 1894, which was also translated in French. In 1929 he published an updated version of his initial volume (824 pp). Although an influential work in its day, 21st century scholars found it to be misleading with respect to sugar production in the Middle Ages.[5]

Lippmann also wrote extensively on the history of alchemy, from the perspective of it being a forerunner of chemistry rather than more philosophical considerations. His three-volume Entstehung und Ausbreitung der Alchemie (Origin and propagation of Alchemy) is considered to contain the most detailed account of Greek alchemy, superseding earlier accounts of Marcellin Berthelot and C. Ruelle in accuracy.[6] In 1920, George Sarton wrote in his review of the first volume that it was a "truly monumental work, the greatest single addition to our knowledge of ancient chemistry (and also to our knowledge of human superstition) since the days of Kopp".[7] In a review of the 1931 volume, Sarton warned that the portion dealing with Arabic materials was of lesser quality than the rest, particularly with respect to spelling of Arabic names.[8] Yet more recent reevaluations point to some deficiencies in citation style that make the text difficult to follow back to primary sources. More compact accounts have been written since.[6]


  • Die Zuckerarten und ihre Derivate (1878)
  • Die Chemie der Zuckerarten (1885, 1904)
  • Geschichte des Zuckers (1890, 1929)
  • Abhandlungen und Vorträge zur Geschichte der Naturwissenschaft (1906–1913)
  • Entstehung und Ausbreitung der Alchemie, (1919, 1931, 1954)[6] Digital edition of Vol. 1&2 by the University and State Library Düsseldorf
  • Zeittafeln zur Geschichte der organischen Chemie (1921)
  • Beiträge zur Geschichte der Naturwissenschaft und der Technik (1923)
  • Geschichte der Rübe als Kulturpflanze (1925)
  • Guntwin Bruhns (Hrsg.), Aus den Lebenserinnerungen von E. O. von Lippmann. In: Zuckerindustrie 107. bis 119. Jg., 1982–1994.


  1. ^ a b c "Lippmann, Edmund Oscar von (1857–1940), Chemiker" entry in Österreichisches Biographisches Lexikon 1815–1950, Vol. 5, 1971, p. 238 metadata
  2. ^ Read, J. (1927). "Studien zur Gewchichte der Chemie Festgabe Edmund O v Lippmann zum siebzigsten Geburtstaqe". Nature. 119 (2995): 451–452. doi:10.1038/119451a0.
  3. ^ "Main page". Retrieved 24 Sep 2011. The Sugar Museum was opened on the 8th of May 1904. The initiator of the museum was Edmund Oskar von Lippmann, the doyen of the history of sciences and sugar.
  4. ^ F. G. Wiechmann, "Reviewed work(s): Die Chemie der Zuckerarten by Edmund O. Von Lippmann", Science New Series, Vol. 20, No. 499 (Jul. 22, 1904), pp. 111–112 JSTOR 1630622
  5. ^ Mohamed Ouerfelli (2008). Le sucre: production, commercialisation et usages dans la Méditerranée médiévale. BRILL. p. 4. ISBN 978-90-04-16310-2.
  6. ^ a b c Brian Vickers (1990). "The Discrepancy between res and verba in Greek Alchemy". In Z. R. W. M. von Martels (ed.). Alchemy revisited: proceedings of the International Conference on the History of Alchemy at the University of Groningen, 17–19 April 1989. Brill. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-90-04-09287-7.
  7. ^ George Sarton, "Reviewed work(s): Entstehung und Ausbreitung der Alchemie by Edmund O. von Lippmann", Isis, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Autumn, 1920), pp. 302–305, JSTOR 224029
  8. ^ George Sarton, "Reviewed work(s): Entstehung und Ausbreitung der Alchemie by Edmund O. von Lippmann", Isis Vol. 16, No. 2 (Nov., 1931), pp. 462–463

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