Are you enjoying that cup of Joe? Can’t get out of bed without your morning brew? Feeling the pains of coffee addiction and wishing that you could function properly without your daily hit of brown bean juice? Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge can take a lot of credit, but he also has a lot to answer for.
Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge (occasionally referred to as Friedlob, or even Freidrich) was a German analytical chemist, who was born on this day in 1794. Runge had a less than auspicious start to his chemical career as a child. He accidentally discovered the pupil-dilating effects of deadly nightshade, which, while dangerous, attracted the attention of literary superstar (at the time, in Germany) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Goethe encouraged the young man to investigate coffee, where Runge made his most famous discovery – he isolated caffeine as the active ingredient in coffee.
Just as he started his chemistry career, Runge would also end his career with very little. Despite cracking the code of the most popular beverage in the world, earning a doctorate and touring Europe on a speaking tour, Runge would end up at a chemical factory, where he was dismissed by a manager who resented his fame. He died in poverty 15 years later.