A Barometer of the Science

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:
A Barometer of the Science

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From 1859 to 1866, while he was professor in Ghent, Belgium, August Kekulé published a textbook entitled Lehrbuch der organischen Chemie that offers a glimpse into many lively issues of that day, including how best to imagine the transformations of atoms and molecules. In September 1858, the Belgian chemist Jean Servais Stas went to Germany to find someone who would fill the chemistry professorship at the Flemish University of Ghent. He was initially inclined toward Heinrich Limpricht, but later opted for Kekulé. Shortly after arriving in Ghent, Kekulé completed writing the first fascicle of Lehrbuch der organischen Chemie, in which he provided his short history of the theory of organic chemistry. He would go on to describe the rise of the “theory of polyatomic radicals” at the hands of Alexander Williamson, William Odling, and Adolphe Wurtz. Kekulé also engaged Emil Erlenmeyer in a debate over whether a given element's atomicity (valence) was necessarily constant or variable.

Keywords: August Kekulé; University of Ghent; atoms; molecules; valence; organischen Chemie; organic chemistry; polyatomic radicals; Emil Erlenmeyer; atomicity

Chapter.  9773 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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