Chapter

Building an Unseen Structure

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/9780226723358.003.0003
Building an Unseen Structure

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From 1856 to 1858, August Kekulé worked as a lecturer in Heidelberg, Germany, during which he published ideas that had been developing in his head since he was in London. His theory proposed how chemical evidence can be used to infer the way individual atoms are linked together to form certain kinds of molecules. It would provide the basis for atomic mappings or orderings within the molecule, which can be viewed as a problem of two-dimensional topology and not physical arrangements in three-dimensional Euclidean space. The idea that the former task could be accomplished from the evidence of chemical reactions and by using the algorithms provided by “atomicities” (now known as valence), lay at the heart of Kekulé's “theory of atomicity of the elements” of 1858—later called structure theory. The theories of valence and structure highlighted the importance of the iconographic features of chemical formulas.

Keywords: August Kekulé; atoms; molecules; chemical reactions; valence; theory of atomicity; structure theory; chemical formulas; atomicity; topology

Chapter.  10740 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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