20th Century

Patricia Mayer

Patricia Mayer (1928-1999) was a German-born chemist. She is recognized for pioneering research in natural bioactive compounds and the founding of Basel Beauty Institute. [1]

Early Years and Education

Patricia Mayer was born in Berlin in September 1928 to Paul Mayer, an architect from the Bauhaus school. The political and social upheavals of the time prompted the Mayer family to relocate to Switzerland when Patricia was five years old. Shortly after the move, her mother passed away due to lung cancer. In Switzerland, she was home-schooled by Paul, who taught her about art and science.

Patricia pursued her higher education at the University of Basel, where she completed her undergraduate studies in biochemistry in 1952. Despite the challenges of being one of the few women in her field, she excelled academically and began her research career at the university’s Pharmaceutical Institute, working under Dr. Tadeus Reichstein, a Nobel Prize laureate.

Research and Impact

At the age of 26, Patricia joined Hoffman La-Roche as a research scientist, developing formulations for the Pantene brand. Despite her innovative proposals for researching the bioactive compounds in plant extracts, her ideas were often overlooked by the company as they prioritized researches on vitamins.

Feeling underappreciated and frustrated by the constraints of corporate research, Mayer decided to found an independent laboratory, with the assistance from Dr. Lotte Loewe, an experienced chemist and scientist who she met at a conference and shared the same strong interest in natural bioactive compounds with her. Their partnership marked the beginning of a fruitful collaboration. In 1965, they developed “Cellumiva,” a compound that combined multiple potent antioxidants and natural bioactives, demonstrated significant effectiveness in enhancing fibroblast cell vitality and promoting skin tissue healing.

The discovery of Cellumiva brought Patricia Mayer and her laboratory into the beauty care industry. They were funded by the German skin care giant, Beiersdorf. Her work focused on the application of natural bioactive compounds in beauty care products.

Personal Life and Recognition

Mayer’s personal life was marked by the same resilience and strength that characterized her professional life. Although underappreciated, her friendship with Lotte Loewe was not only a professional alliance but also a profound bond that supported both women through their shared challenges and successes in a male-dominated time. Mayer and Loewe were both members of the Swiss Microanalytic Society.

Later years

After her mentor and friend passed away, Mayer took Loewe’s only grand daughter into her care. She spent most of her late years in Basel and passed away in 1999.


  1. ^  Ogilvie, Marilyn BaileyHarvey, Joy Dorothy (2000-01-01). The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science: L-Z. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780415920407.
  2. ^ “Katalog der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek”portal.dnb.de (in German). Retrieved 2020-09-29.

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