Hermann Christian von Fehling
Biography of Hermann Christian von Fehling
Hermann Christian Fehling was the son of a merchant in Lübeck. In 1827, having attended the Bürgerschule and the Gymnasium, he he started his education as a druggist in the workshop and laboratory of the apothecary Franz Friedrich Kindt in Lübeck. From 1832 to 1835 he worked with Kindt's brother Georg Christian (1793-1869), also an apothecary, in Beremen.
In 1835 Fehling entered the University of Heidelberg to study natural sciences, concentrating on chemistry. He became the assistant of Leopold Gmelin (1788-1853) and in 1837 was conferred doctor of philosophy.
After graduating he went to Gießen as preparateur to Justus von Liebig (1803-1873). With Liebig he elucidated the composition of paraldehyde and metaldehyde. In 1838 he went to Paris where he worked with Jean Baptiste Dumas (1800-1884) and in the laboratory of the mint.
In 1839, on Liebig's recommendation, he became a teacher of chemistry and technology in the Vereinigte Real- und Gewerbeschule established in Stuttgart in 1829. Two years later, on March 10, 1831, he became the head teacher. His title and rank was now equal to that of a professor at a Gymnasium. He held this position for 44 years, until a stroke forced him to retire in 1883.
With the position came a temprary citizenship of Württemberg. This became permanent when he married Sophie Cless (born 1822), the daughter of professor August Eberhard Karl von Cless (born 1794) and Julie Elben. Fehling died in Stuttgart in 1885.
Scientific research was not among the duties of Fehling's tenure, his research was done out of private interest. He was instrumental in making the school a polytechnic, and in 1876 a polytechnic university – Technische Hochschule. This is now the University of Stuttgart.
Fehling was a higly talented teacher who gave his pupils a thorough, practical education in a newly established laboratory. This made the Real- und Gewerbeschule leading in Württemberg. It was only many years later that the University og Tübingen introduced labaroratory practice in its curriculum.
Fehling's reputation and field of work went far beyond his teachin activities. After he suffered a life threatening haemorrhage while travelling in Munich in 1854, he had to reduce his laboratory activity, and eventually give it up. For the next decades he was active in various medical and other committees, in the pharmaceutical test commission and as technical advisor to the Patent Commission. This commission was under the Zentralstelle für Handel und Gewerbe established in 1848, the precursor to the Wirtschaftsministerium. After the founding of Germany (the Second Reich) in 1871, he represented Württemberg in numerous hygienical, pharmaceutical and technical commissions, among them the commission for the revision of the Pharmacopoeia Germanica (1880). Besides this he was a member of the jury of all World Exhibitions from 1846 to 1873. He attended the World Exhibition in London in 1851.
On Septembern 24. 1854, Fehling was made a Knight of the Crown of Württemberg – Ritter des Ordens der württembergischen Krone – and thereby raised to the personal nobility.
His earlier work included an investigation of succinic acid, and the preparation of phenyl cyanide (better known as benzonitrile), the simplest nitrile of the aromatic series. Later his time was mainly occupied with questions of technology and public health rather than with pure chemistry. Among the analytical methods he worked up the best known is that for the estimation of sugars. Known as Fehling's solution it is a solution of copper sulfate mixed with alkali and potassium sodium tartrate (Rochelle salt).
He was a contributor to the Handworterbuch of Liebig, Friedrich Wöhler (1800-1882) and Johann Christian Poggendorff (1796-1877), and the Lehrbuch der physikalischen und theoretischen Chemie by Johan Heinrich Buff (805-1878), Friedrich Zamminer (1817-1858) and Hermann Kopp (1817-1892). This was volume one of Graham-Otto's Lehrbuch der Chemie (Thomas Graham , 1805-1869; and Friedrich Julius Otto, 1809-1870). For many years Fehling was a member of the committee for the revision of the Pharmacopoeia Germanica.
We thank William Charles Caccamise Sr, MD, for information submitted.
- A. W. Hofmann:
Sitzung vom 13. Juli 1885.
Berichte der deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft, 1885, 18 (2): 1811–1820.
- Annual General Meeting.
Journal of the Chemical Society, London, 1885, 49: 329-356.