Posts Tagged ‘scientist’
This might be seen as cranking a handle by producing yet more examples of acids ionised by a small number of water molecules. I justify it (probably only to myself) as an exercise in how a scientist might approach a problem, and how it linearly develops with time, not necessarily in the directions first envisaged. A conventional scientific narrative published in a conventional journal tells the story often with the benefit of hindsight, but rarely how the project actually unfolded chronologically.‡ So by devoting 7 posts to this, you can judge for yourself how my thoughts might have developed (and I am prepared to acknowledge this may only serve to show my ignorance).
Chemistry rarely makes it to the cover of popular science magazines. Thus when this week, the New Scientist ran the headline “Forbidden chemistry. Reactions they said could never happen“, I was naturally intrigued. The examples included Woodward and Hoffmann’s “symmetry-forbidden” reactions, which have been the subject of several posts here already. But in the section on nobel gas chemistry, the same Hoffmann is reported as having been shocked to hear of a compound of xenon and gold, both of which in their time were thought of as solidly inert, and therefore even more unlikely to form a union.
Henry Armstrong studied at the Royal College of Chemistry from 1865-7 and spent his subsequent career as an organic chemist at the Central College of the Imperial college of Science and technology until he retired in 1912. He spent the rest of his long life railing against the state of modern chemistry, saving much of his vitriol against (inter alia) the absurdity of ions, electronic theory in chemistry, quantum mechanics and nuclear bombardment in physics. He snarled at Robinson’s and Ingold’s new invention (ca 1926-1930) of electronic arrow pushing with the put down “bent arrows never hit their marks“.1 He was dismissed as an “old fogy, stuck in a time warp about 1894.”1 So why on earth would I want to write about him? Read on…
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).