Gedeon Richter was born to a land-owning Jewish family of grain traders in Ecséd on 23 September 1872. He began working as a pharmacy assistant in 1890 and graduated as a pharmacist from Budapest University (now ELTE) in 1895.
After his university studies, he gained experience in pharmaceutical science and manufacturing in Hungary and abroad. In 1901, he purchased the ‘Eagle’ pharmacy in Budapest, where he produced organo-therapeutic drugs. In his research, performing experiments on the organs of test animals, he recognised the pharmaceutical significance of extracts from internal glands, based upon which he produced his first drug, Tonogen suprarenale, using an adrenal hormone extract (adrenaline). In 1907, he founded the factory that bore his name in Kőbánya (Budapest), which quickly became one of the world’s leading manufacturers of pharmaceuticals. One of the factory’s most successful products was a fever-reducing drug patented in 1912. By the start of World War I in 1914, the company already had 24 patents. In 1923, it was transformed into a family company limited by shares. Utilising its widespread international connections, the company already had representatives in 70 countries on five continents and 10 foreign subsidiaries when World War II began. In recognition of his achievements, Richter was awarded the title of counsellor to the Royal Government of Hungary. By the 1930s, the company Richter Rt. had become one of the country’s most important enterprises involved in foreign trade. However, the anti-Jewish laws passed in the 1940s made life impossible for Gedeon Richter. In 1942, he was stripped of his position as director and could only work as an advisor at his own factory. In the autumn of 1944, production almost came to a standstill; Richter could have left for Switzerland at that time, but he did not want to leave the company. He moved to a house in Budapest protected by diplomatic immunity, from which he was rounded up along with the other residents on 30 December 1944. The following day, he was shot and thrown into the Danube with 50 others in front of the Hungarian Parliament building, at the age of 72. His body was never found. His symbolic grave is located at the family’s mausoleum in Lugano, Switzerland.