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Carl Reichenbach


Baron Dr. Carl (Karl) Ludwig von Reichenbach (full name: Karl Ludwig Freiherr von Reichenbach) (February 12, 1788, Stuttgart - January 19, 1869, Leipzig, Germany) was a notable chemist, geologist, metallurgist, naturalist, industrialist and philosopher, a member of the prestigious Prussian Academy of Sciences, and considered one of the top 1,000 scientists of all times. He is best known for his discoveries of several chemical products of economical importance, extracted from tar, such as eupione, waxy paraffin, pittacal (the first synthetic dye) and phenol (an antiseptic). He also dedicated himself in his last years to research an unproved field of energy combining electricity, magnetism and heat, emanating from all living things, which he called the Odic force.



Reichenbach was educated at the University of Tübingen, where he obtained the degree of doctor of philosophy. At the age of 16 he conceived the idea of establishing a new German state in one of the South Sea islands, and for five years he devoted himself to this project. He formed a large secret association in Württemberg, until it was suppressed by the French authorities, on suspicion that its real objectives were political. Reichenbach was arrested and imprisoned for some months.

He next directed his attention to the applications of science to the industrial arts, visited most of the great manufacturing and metallurgical works of France and Germany, and established the first modern metallurgical company, with forges of his own at Villingen and Hausach, in the Black Forest region of Southern Germany, and later Baden. In 1821, in connection with Count Hugo of Salm, he commenced a number of manufacturing operations in Blansko, Moravia, from which he soon secured an ample fortune; at about this time the King of Württemberg conferred on him the title of baron.

Scientific contributions

Reichenbach was particularly distinguished for his original scientific investigations in many areas. The first geological monograph which appeared in Austria was his Geologische Mitteilungen aus Mähren (Vienna, 1834).

His position as the head of the large chemical works, iron furnaces and machine shops upon the great estate of Count Hugo secured to him excellent opportunities for conducting his experimental researches upon a large working scale. From 1830 to 1834 he was engaged in the investigation of the complex products of the distillation of organic substances, such as coal and wood tar and succeeded in discovering among them a number of hydrocarbon compounds, the existence and useful properties of which were before entirely unknown. Among these were creosote, paraffin, eupione and phenol (antiseptics), pittacal and cidreret (synthetic dyestuffs), picamar (a perfume base), assamar, capnomor, and others. Under the name of eupione, Reichenbach included the mixture of hydrocarbon oils now known as waxy paraffin or coal oils. In his paper describing the substance, first published in the Neues Jahrbuch der Chemie und Physik, B, ii, he dwelt upon the economical importance of this and of its associate paraffins, whenever the methods of separating them cheaply from natural bituminous compounds would be established.

Baron Von Reichenbach usually lived in a castle at Reisenberg, which was provided with an extensive scientific library and several scientific collections, among which one of the finest of the world on meteorites; as well as Sieber's great herbarium.

The Odic force

Von Reichenbach afterward entered upon an important investigation of the manner in which the human nervous system could be affected by magnetism, and by various substances that had been subjected to magnetism. These investigations led him to propose the existence of a new imponderable force allied to magnetism, which he thought was an emanation from most substances and to the influence of which different persons are variously sensitive. To this vitalist manifestation he gave the name Odic force, (inspired by Odin, the chief god of Nordic mythology). The invisible Od was alleged to be a kind of "life principle" which permeates and connects all living things. Investigation by other mechanistic scientists produced the usual misunderstandings, as with Mesmer. His 'Odic' force is similar to the discoveries of 'orgone' (Wilhelm Reich).


  • Das Kreosot (1833)
  • Geologische Mitteilungen aus Marhen (1834)
  • Physikalisch-physiologische Untersuchungen über die Dynamide des Magnetismus (1840)
  • Wer is sensitive, wer nicht? (1856)
  • Odisch-Magnetische Briefe (1852)
  • Der sensitive Mensch und sein Verhalten zum Ode (1854)
  • Odische Erweiterungen (1856)
  • Köhierglaube und Afterwissenschaft (1856)
  • Aphorismen über Sensibilität und Od (1866)
  • Die Odische Lohe (1867).


  • Reichenbach, Karl. The New American Cyclopedia, 1863 (in the public domain). Facsimile copy available on the Internet at Google Books.


Note regarding personal names: Freiherr is a title, translated as Baron, not a first or middle name. The female forms are Freifrau and Freiin.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Carl_Reichenbach". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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