Meet the godfather of caffeine and one of our biggest heroes

Remembering Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge

Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge, a German analytical chemist known for discovering the  caffeine and one of our biggest heroes, obviously. 

Runge was born in Germany in 1794 and always had a fascination for science. While studying chemistry at the University of Jena in Germany, his professor J.W. Döbereiner became increasingly impressed with the young student and gave him a packet of coffee beans. Why? Because he said the chemical components of coffee would be worth investigating

And boy, were they. He researched the beans for the better part of a year, and discovered caffeine in 1819. We'd like to think that drinking coffee helped him make the discovery.

So when you're getting your daily energy burst from your morning cup of coffee, be sure to thank Runge! 

The chemical compound of caffeine.

Now, we know that caffeine as the ingredient in coffee that keeps us alert and wake (and is the world's most widely consumed psychoactive drug). In its purest form, caffeine is a white, bitter organic compound found in many seeds and plants around the tropic or sub-tropic regions of the world. Caffeine is a natural pesticide for these plants and keeps the bugs at bay.


Caffeine seen under a microscope.

Runge earned his doctorate from the University of Berlin and went on to teach Chemistry at the University of Breslau. He then worked for a chemical company, working on the first coal tar dye and the first extraction of quinoline, which led to quinine, which is used to treat malaria. 

Today, raise a mug to the godfather of caffeine himself! Happy Birthday, Friedlieb Runge!

Related: What caffeine looks like under a microscope

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