Kekulé's “Dreams”

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:
Kekulé's “Dreams”

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At a celebration held in his honor in Berlin on March 11, 1890, August Kekulé told his “dream stories.” According to Arthur Koestler, Kekulé's benzene story was “probably the most important dream in history since Joseph's seven fat and seven lean cows.” Whether Kekulé was sincere in telling these tales has been the subject of considerable debate in recent years. This chapter, which examines the context in which Kekulé told his stories, begins by providing an overview of his sixtieth birthday party in September 1889, when Adolf Baeyer secretly proposed the idea of a birthday party for the benzene theory. It then looks at another famous story of private moments of discovery, told by the great French mathematician Henri Poincaré while speaking to an audience of psychologists in Paris in May 1908.

Keywords: August Kekulé; benzene; Adolf Baeyer; Henri Poincaré; Paris; Berlin

Chapter.  13414 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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