German organic chemist who made critical contributions to the development of methods to synthesize organic compounds. Among his achievements was the synthesis of acetic acid—an organic compound from totally inorganic compounds—in 1845. This confirmed the concept that organic compounds did not need a vital force supplied by a living tissue in order to be made. In 1859 Kolbe discovered a method to make salicylic acid, a naturally occurring compound found in willow bark that had pain-relieving properties, cheaply and in large scale. A derivative of salicylic acid called aspirin was first produced in 1899 and has been in use ever since.