March 25th marks the passing of Friedrich Ferdinand Runge. Runge was a German chemist most famous for discovering caffeine. The discovery process started when Runge was introduced to the German celebrity and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who also had an interest in science. Goethe was visiting a laboratory where Runge was working on plant extracts. The two men struck up a friendship and eventually Goethe entrusted some Arabian mocha beans to Runge to investigate their properties.
Runge eventually isolated bitter white crystals he called koffein that was the active compound in the beans. He moved onto other avenues of chemistry including the invention of the first blue aniline dye made from coal tar and developed the analytical technique known as paper chromatography.