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Summary Article: Wieland, Heinrich Otto
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

German organic chemist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1927 for determining the structures of steroids and related compounds. He also studied other natural compounds, such as alkaloids and pterins, and contributed to the investigation of biological oxidation.

Life Wieland was born in Pforzheim in the Black Forest and attended several universities. He spent most of his career at the University and Technische Hochschule of Munich. During World War I he researched into chemical warfare.

Steroids In 1912 Wieland showed that bile acids have similar structures to that of cholesterol. Later he worked out what he thought was the basic skeleton of a steroid molecule (for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize), but it was found to be incorrect. In 1932 he and his co-workers produced a somewhat modified structure, which is still accepted today.

Other compounds Wieland did other work with the bile acids, demonstrating their role in converting fats into water-soluble cholic acids (a key process in digestion). He determined the structures of, and synthesized many, toadstool poisons, such as phalloidine from the deadly Amanita fungus. He also began research into the composition and synthesis of pterins, the pigments that give the colour to butterflies' wings.

Biological oxidation Wieland proved experimentally that biological oxidation (the process within living tissues by which food substances such as glucose are converted to carbon dioxide and energy) was in fact a catalytic dehydrogenation. This was in direct opposition to the findings of Otto Warburg, who had shown that biological oxidation was an addition of oxygen, and the controversy sparked debate and research. In the end both dehydrogenation and oxidation were shown to occur.

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