Reichstein was born into a Polish-Jewish family at Włocławek, Kingdom of Poland. His parents were Gastawa (Brockmann) and Izydor Reichstein. He spent his early childhood at Kiev, where his father was an engineer. He began his education at boarding-school in Jena, Germany and arrived in Basel, Switzerland at the age of 8. In 1933, working in Zürich, Switzerland, Reichstein succeeded, independently of Sir Norman Haworth and his collaborators in the United Kingdom, in synthesizing vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in what is now called the Reichstein process. Together with E. C. Kendall and P. S. Hench, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1950 for their work on hormones of the adrenal cortex which culminated in the isolation of cortisone. In later years, Reichstein became interested in the phytochemistry and cytology of ferns, publishing at least 80 papers on these subjects in the last three decades of his life. He had a particular interest in the use of chromosome number and behavior in the interpretation of histories of hybridization and polyploidy, but also continued his earlier interest in the chemical constituents of the plants. He died in Basel, Switzerland. The principal industrial process for the artificial synthesis of Vitamin C still bears his name. Reichstein was the longest-lived Nobel laureate at the time of his death, but was surpassed in 2008 by Rita Levi-Montalcini.