Posts Tagged ‘Hermann Sachse’

A short history of molecular modelling: 1860-1890.

Saturday, February 5th, 2011
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In 1953, the model of the DNA molecule led to what has become regarded as the most famous scientific diagram of the 20th century. It had all started 93 years earlier in 1860, at a time when the tetravalency of carbon was only just established (by William Odling) and the concept of atoms as real entities was to remain controversial for another 45 years (for example Faraday, perhaps the most famous scientist alive in 1860 did not believe atoms were real). So the idea of constructing a molecular model from atoms as the basis for understanding chemical behaviour was perhaps bolder than we might think. It is shown below, part of a set built for August Wilhelm von Hofmann as part of the lectures he delivered at the Royal College of Chemistry in London (now Imperial College).

The original August Wilhelm von Hofmann molecular model, located in the archives at the Royal institution, London and used by Hofmann in his 1865 lecture there

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The conformation of cyclohexane

Thursday, January 28th, 2010
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Like benzene, its fully saturated version cyclohexane represents an icon of organic chemistry. By 1890, the structure of planar benzene was pretty much understood, but organic chemistry was still struggling somewhat to fully embrace three rather than two dimensions. A grand-old-man of organic chemistry at the time, Adolf von Baeyer, believed that cyclohexane too was flat, and what he said went. So when a young upstart named Hermann Sachse suggested it was not flat, and furthermore could exist in two forms, which we now call chair and boat, no-one believed him. His was a trigonometric proof, deriving from the tetrahedral angle of 109.47 at carbon, and producing what he termed strainless rings.

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