The chemist Ernst Späth is considered the “father” of research into alkaloids. In 1917 he habilitated at the University of Vienna, and six years later he was appointed professor. The alkaloids, most of which have a decidedly bitter taste, occur primarily in plants and are used, among other things, as medicines.
Späth became internationally known as a researcher through the structural elucidation he achieved in 1919 and the first synthesis of mescaline. The substance itself had already been isolated in 1896 by the German pharmacologist and chemist Arthur Heffter. Späth was the first to succeed in synthesizing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, which made their large-scale use in drug production possible.
Späth was awarded the Liebig Prize of the Austrian Academy of Sciences as early as 1920, and in 1926 he was elected a member. From 1938 to 1945, he became Secretary General of the Academy, and after the end of the war, from 1945 to 1946, President. From 1937 to March 1938, Späth was also rector of the University of Vienna.