Otto Ruff was born in Schwäbisch Hall, Württemberg. After becoming an pharmacist under the supervision of Carl Magnus von Hell (known from the Hell-Volhard-Zelinsky halogenation) at the University of Stuttgart he joined the group of Hermann Emil Fischer at the University of Berlin. Fischer was noted for his work on carbohydrates (sugars) and so Ruff started his career as organic chemist. In 1898 he published his work on the transformation of d-Glucose to d-Arabinose later called the Ruff degradation. Supported by Fischer Ruff became head of the new inorganic department in Berlin. This drastical change in subject benefitted Ruff and during his work on chlorides sulfur compounds. In 1902 he married Meta Richter a pharmacist, from this marriage he had three children. In 1904 he became professor at the University of Danzig and from 1916 he was head of the inorganic department at the University of Breslau. He died three years after his retirement in 1939. His last years of teaching were made miserable by a privatdozent and assistant, Helmut Hartmann, who had joined the Nazi party and became an "insolent politician" who made life unbearable for many.
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“The true poem is not that which the public read. There is always a poem not printed on paper,... in the poets life. It is what he has become through his work. Not how is the idea expressed in stone, or on canvas or paper, is the question, but how far it has obtained form and expression in the life of the artist. His true work will not stand in any princes gallery.”
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