You can thank Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge for making some eye-opening discoveries, including one that's an integral part of our lives 200 years later.
The German analytical chemist began conducting chemical experiments at a young age, identifying the pupil-dilating effects of belladonna when he accidentally splashed a drop of the toxic perennial, also known as deadly nightshade, into his eye.
But a stimulating 1819 discovery is the reason Google is celebrating Runge's 225th birthday Friday, by way of an animated Doodle. For after Runge demonstrated his belladonna discovery to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, he was encouraged to analyze the chemical makeup of coffee beans, leading a few months later to the identification of caffeine as its active ingredient.
Born in Hamburg, Germany, on Feb. 8, 1794, Runge earned his doctorate from the University of Berlin and went on to teach chemistry at the University of Breslau until 1831, when he went to work for a chemical company until 1852. His other work included the first coal tar dye (aniline blue) and the first extraction of quinoline, which led to the derivative quinine, a drug used to treat malaria.
Despite his contributions to chemistry, Runge died in poverty in 1867 at the age of 73.
First published Feb. 7, 6 p.m. PT.
Update, Feb. 8 at 10:23 a.m. PT: Adds additional background information.
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