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Was MDMA first synthesized by Merck or by Fritz Haber?
Q: I read that MDMA was actually first synthesized by Fritz Haber in 1892, rather than by Merck in the early 20th century. Is this true?

A: There is some controversy surrounding the question of when MDMA was first synthesized. Most histories describe that the first synthesis of MDMA was by Merck sometime prior to 1912, when they filed a patent for it, but some people report that it was German chemist Fritz Haber who conducted the first synthesis nearly 20 years earlier.

The claim, mostly by a handful of German websites, is that Haber published about the synthesis as part of his German doctoral thesis, "Über einige Derivate des Piperonals" (About a Few Piperonal Derivatives). The dates given in support of this theory vary, but generally state that Haber first conducted the synthesis in 1892 and published about it in his thesis in 1898.

There are two things wrong with this claim. First, Haber's thesis was published in May of 1891 (see photo of thesis cover). The fact that this date is incorrectly listed doesn't inspire a lot of confidence.

Second, it appears that there is no mention of MDMA in his thesis. We have been in contact with a German gentleman who worked at Merck and read a copy of Haber's thesis, which was in the Merck library. He tells us definitively that Haber's doctoral thesis does not mention MDMA. While Haber discusses a number of derivatives of Piperonal (3,4-Methylenedioxybenzaldehyde) including several with the 3,4-Methylendioxyphenyl-structure, he does not describe MDMA or any precursors of MDMA.

Our conclusion, barring further evidence, is that Haber studied very similar chemicals, but never mentioned synthesizing MDMA. Thus the first recorded synthesis is by Merck around 1912.

Asked By : Anonymous
Answered By : fire
Published Date : 12 / 9 / 2005
Last Edited Date : 12 / 9 / 2005
Question ID : 3104

Categories: [ History ] [ MDMA (Ecstasy) ] [ Chemistry ]

Ask Erowid v1.7 - Jul, 2005

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