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Wilhelm-Ostwald-Gesellschaft e.V.

Wenn ein Kopf und ein Buch zusammenstoßen und es klingt hohl,
so muß es nicht immer der Kopf gewesen sein.
Freilich auch nicht immer das Buch.

(W. Ostwald, Das große Elixier, 1920)


On September 2nd

Wilhelm Ostwald was born in Riga as the second of three sons of the ethnic German cooper G.W. Ostwald.

After finishing elementary school in Riga he attended the Secondary Modern Gymnasium (high-school) of Riga. It took him seven years to complete the five classes required for graduation.


at an age of 18

A-Levels in 1871.

at an age of 19

Studying at the institute for physics and mathematics of the University of Dorpat from 1872 till 1875.

at an age of 22

Applied chemistry work and publication in the "Journal für praktische Chemie" in 1875, first contacts with Leipzig.

at an age of 24

Exam of Master’s degree in Dorpat and lectures as an outside lecturer in 1877.

at an age of 25

Habilitation with the work "Volumchemische und optisch-chemische Studien" (Volume-chemical and optically-chemical Studies) in 1878.

at an age of 27

Marriage to Helene von Reyher in 1880, two daughters and three sons came from this marriage.

at an age of 28

Professor at the Baltic Polytechnik of Riga from 1881 to 1887.

at an age of 34

Founding of the "Zeitschrift für physikalische Chemie, Stöchiometrie und Verwandschaftslehre".

at an age of 34

Professor at the University of Leipzig from 1887 till 1906.

Works on the dissociation of electrolytes as well as chemical kinetics and catalysts.


at an age of 41

First chairman of the German Electro-Chemical Society from 1854 till 1858

at an age of 44

In 1897 he opposed the establishment of a state qualifying examination to be given to university chemistry graduates. Ostwald supported the argument that the establishment of such an examination was an infringement on the rights of universities to determine the curriculum for the education of chemists.


at an age of 49

Founding the journal "Annalen der Naturphilosophie" (Annales of Natural Philosophy) in 1902.

at an age of 52

First German exchange professor in the USA from 1905 till 1906.

at an age of 53

Freelance research scientist in Großbothen / Saxony, among other things he devoted himself intensively to chemically-historical and philosophical themes from 1906 till 1932.


at an age of 56

Awarded of the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1909.

at an age of 58

President of the International Association of Chemists, of the World Language Association and of the Monists Association; founding of the International Institute for Organizing mental Work "Die Brücke" (The Bridge), founding of the publishing house UNESMA, co-founder of the International Institute of Chemistry in 1911.


at an age of 61

Working on the systematizing and standardization of colors from 1914 till 1932.

at an age of 67

Co-founder of the Workshop for the Theory of Colors in Dresden.

at an age of 68

Founding of the journal "Die Farbe" (The Color) in 1921.

on April 4th 1932

End of his life (He died in a hospital in Leipzig)

Wilhelm Ostwald bequeathed:

  • 45 textbooks and monographs with an amount between 50 and 3000 pages, which went through 15 editions and which are translated into each cultural language.

  • more than 1000 articles and similar publications.

  • circa 500 unpublished, partly extensive manuscripts.

  • a correspondence with circa 5000 persons with an entire amount of circa 70000 documents.

  • more than 6000 seminar papers and reviews.

  • circa 4000 small sized paintings and documents on color studies.

Besides Ostwald was:

  • Founder and editor of six magazines, of which one still exists today and a second one has been founded again with the same name.

  • Editor of several series and collected work, of which one still comes out today.

  • Translator of English and French specialist texts.

Ostwald was honored:

  • by eight honorary degrees (three German among).

  • by the membership in 19 academies and many more scientific societies.

  • in 1909 by the Nobel price for chemistry as well as by scientific medals and decorations.

Under Ostwald’s leadership at the University of Leipzig:

  • about 100 of his students became professors of physical chemistry in Europe, Japan and the USA.

  • ten habilitations were carried out within twenty years.

Ostwald’s scientific library in the house “Energie” (energy) contains:

  • about 14000 titles in 22000 volumes.

  • about 10000 special printings, 1300 thesisses among.

Unfortunately, our website is not entirely translated yet. Below you can find links to further articles in German: