1900 - 1996

Gas chromatography

Erika Cremer worked as a physicochemist and is the inventor of gas chromatography, an analytical method to separate mixtures of chemical compounds that is important up to this day.

Born in Munich in 1900 and as the daughter of physiologist and professor Max Cremer, Erika graduated from high school in 1921 to study Chemistry and Physics. At that time, a career in the chemical industry was said to be futile - motivated by her father and her lecturers, upon which were Nernst, Rubens, Plank and Einstein, however, she decided to pursue a scientific career.

After obtaining her doctorate in 1927 with magna cum laude, she encountered many burdens to continue her path, due to the great reluctance towards women professors at that time. However, this did not stop her. In 1940 she started working at the University of Innsbruck, and in 1959 she became a full professor in Physical Chemistry, an academic degree that was only accessible to a few women.

Shortly after World War II, the first gas chromatogram was obtained in Erika Cremer’s laboratory, which showed the separation of air and carbon dioxide on activated charcoal. She developed this method between 1944 and 1947, together with her PhD student Fritz Prior. She did not patent her work due to the high costs, as well as for her idealistic views on intellectual property.

Since her death in 1996, Erika Cremer’s work has been upon the collection of the 100 most important scientific contributions of the last 50 years, exhibited in the 'Deutsches Museum von Meisterwerken der Naturwissenschaft und Technik' in Munich.

Written by: Magdalena Lederbauer.