Gelmo, Paul Josef Jakob

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Gelmo, Paul Josef Jakob

(b. Vienna, Austria, 17 December l879; d. Vienna, 22 October 1961)


Gelmo attended the Technische Hochschule in Vienna from 1898, obtaining an engineering diploma in 1903 and a doctorate in 1906. From 1904 to 1909 he was an assistant there to Wilhelm Suida. For twenty-eight years (1910–1938) he was chief chemist for the Austrian State Printing Office. In 1929 he became lecturer, and in 1954 professor, of the chemistry and technology of cellulose and paper at the Technische Hochschule.

Gelmo made his only noteworthy contribution to science while serving as assistant to Suida. Engaged in research with azo compounds and their usefulness as synthetic dyes, he prepared several new sulfonamides. One of his syntheses was sulfonanilamide (paroa-aminobenzenesulfonamide). After his work was published in 1908, I. G. Farbenindustrie used the new compound as a constituent in azosulfonamide dyes, but no one suspected that sulfonanilamide had curative powers. In 1932 Gerhard Domagk demonstrated the effectiveness of prontosil, a dye containing a sulfonamide group, in controlling streptococcal infections, which discovery led to the development of the sulfonamides as medicinals. Gelmo’s sulfonanilamide came to be the most widely used of the sulfa drugs, and its commercial manufacture was accomplished essentially by his method.


Gelmo’s preparation of sulfonamides is presented in “Über Sulfanride der p-Amidobenzolsulfonsäure.” in Journal für praktische Chemie, 77 (1908), 369–382.

Brief notices in Poggendorff, VIIa, pt. 2 (1957), 183; and Who’s Who in Austria (1955), p. 136, constitute the secondary literature.

Albert B. Costa