Leopold Ruzicka (1887–1976)

Professor of chemistry

Leopold Ruzicka was born in Vukovar (Croatia) on 13 September 1887.

He studied chemistry at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology from 1906 to 1910 and was an assistant at ETH Zurich from 1912 to 1916. He then worked for the chemical industry and was a senior lecturer and, from 1923, adjunct professor at ETH Zurich.

Professorships and Nobel Prize

In 1927 he was appointed as a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Utrecht. In 1929 he returned ETH Zurich to take up a professorship as Richard Kuhn’s successor, where he remained until he retired in 1957. In 1939 he won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work on polymethylene and higher terpene compounds. 

Political engagement

Ruzicka was also politically active (such as in the Swiss-Yugoslav Society or against nuclear weapons) and made a name for himself as an art collector, donating a series of paintings by Dutch masters to the Kunsthaus Zurich and establishing a Ruzicka foundation with the aim of adding to this collection at the Kunsthaus. Once a year, ETH Zurich awards the Ruzicka Prize, which is sponsored by the chemical industry, to young chemists working in Switzerland.  

He died in Mammern on 13 September 1976.


Ruzickas Handschrift

The first page of a hand-annotated typescript entitled "Über meinen Anteil bei der Aufklärung und künstlichen
Herstellung von Testosteron", written by Leopold Ružička and dated 24 July 1940
(ETH-Bibliothek, University Archives, Hs 1189: 5666. Duplicate of the typescript "Über meinen Anteil bei der Aufklärung
und künstlichen Herstellung von Testosteron", p.1).


The ETH Zurich University Archives contain his personal scientific papers, for which an index (external link) is accessible online, and an extensive biographical dossier. Some of Ruzicka's earlier works are held in the Rare Books collection. Moreover, several works can be borrowed from the library's stacks. The Image Archive also contains a series of portraits of Ruzicka.    


Telegram informing Ruzicka that he has won the Nobel Prize in 1939.