Friedrich August Kekulé, later Friedrich August Kekule von Stradonitz (7 September 1829 – 13 July 1896) was a German organic chemist. From the 1850s until his death, Kekulé was one of the most prominent chemists in Europe, especially in theoretical chemistry. He was the principal founder of the theory of chemical structure.
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- I fell into a reverie, and lo, the atoms were gamboling before my eyes. Whenever, hitherto, these diminutive beings had appeared to me, they had always been in motion. Now, however, I saw how, frequently, two smaller atoms united to form a pair: how a larger one embraced the two smaller ones; how still larger ones kept hold of three or even four of the smaller: whilst the whole kept whirling in a giddy dance. I saw how the larger ones formed a chain, dragging the smaller ones after them but only at the ends of the chains.
- Statements about a reverie in 1854 (1890), as quoted in "The Experimental Basis of Kekulé's Valence Theory" by Erwin N. Hiebert, in Journal of Chemical Education (1959)
- I was sitting writing on my textbook, but the work did not progress; my thoughts were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gamboling before my eyes. This time the smaller groups kept modestly in the background. My mental eye, rendered more acute by the repeated visions of the kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold conformation; long rows sometimes more closely fitted together all twining and twisting in snake-like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightning I awoke; and this time also I spent the rest of the night in working out the consequences of the hypothesis. Let us learn to dream, gentlemen, and then perhaps we shall learn the truth . . . but let us beware of publishing our dreams before they have been put to the proof by the waking understanding.
- Account of his famous dream of the benzene structure, as quoted in A Life of Magic Chemistry : Autobiographical Reflections of a Nobel Prize Winner (2001) by George A. Olah, p. 54
Quotes about Kekulé
- By the mid-1800s, the new science of chemistry was developing rapidly and chemists had begun to probe the forces holding compounds together. In 1858, August Kekulé and Archibald Couper independently proposed that, in all organic compounds, carbon is tetravalent—it always forms four bonds when it joins other elements to form stable compounds. Furthermore, said Kekulé, carbon atoms can bond to one another to form extended chains of linked atoms. In 1865, Kekulé provided another major advance when he suggested that carbon chains can double back on themselves to form rings of atoms.
- John McMurry, Organic Chemistry 8th ed. (2012), Ch. 1 : Structure and Bonding