Chapter

The Architect of Molecules

in Image and Reality

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2010 | ISBN: 9780226723327
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226723358 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226723358.003.0002
The Architect of Molecules

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Around the middle of the nineteenth century, a number of important figures in the world of chemistry were in London to experiment with molecules. They included Reinhold Hofmann, Hermann Kolbe, Edward Frankland, Alexander Williamson, and Thomas Graham. Most of these men had been associated with Justus von Liebig at some point. August Kekulé, a young chemist and another member of the Liebig club, also lived in London. This chapter focuses on Kekulé from his early years up to his stay in London, examining the mutually interacting ideas of several of his predecessors and contemporaries that were developed into the concept now known as valence. It also looks at Kekulé's famous autobiographical tale of a striking vision he later claimed to have had while aboard a horse-drawn London omnibus. This tale, according to Kekulé, led him from valence theory to the much more consequential theory of chemical structure. The chapter also summarizes Kekulé's research on the sulfuration of organic acids, in which he made the same argument about the sulfur atom that Williamson had about oxygen.

Keywords: August Kekulé; London; valence; sulfuration; organic acids; sulfur atom; Alexander Williamson; Justus von Liebig; chemical structure; molecules

Chapter.  11735 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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