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Cholesterol - History

windaus structure research chemistry

Although cholesterol had been isolated as early as 1770, productive research on its structure did not begin until the twentieth century. Then, in about 1903, a young German chemist by the name of Adolf Windaus decided to concentrate on finding the molecular composition of the compound. Windaus, sometimes referred to as the Father of Steroid Chemistry, eventually worked out a detailed structure for cholesterol, an accomplishment that was partially responsible for his earning the 1928 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

Late research showed that the structure proposed by Windaus was in error. By the early 1930s, however, additional evidence from x-ray analysis allowed Windaus' longtime colleague Heinrich Wieland (among others) to determine the correct structure for the cholesterol molecule.

The next step in understanding cholesterol, synthesizing the compound, was not completed for another two decades. In 1951, the American chemist Robert B. Woodward completed that line of research when he synthesized cholesterol starting with simple compounds. For this accomplishment and his other work in synthesizing large molecule compounds, Woodward was awarded the 1965 Nobel Prize in chemistry.


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