Henry Rzepa's Blog Chemistry with a twist

November 13, 2011

The dawn of organic reaction mechanism: the prequel.

Following on from Armstrong’s almost electronic theory of chemistry in 1887-1890, and Beckmann’s radical idea around the same time that molecules undergoing transformations might do so via a reaction mechanism involving unseen intermediates (in his case, a transient enol of a ketone) I here describe how these concepts underwent further evolution in the early 1920s. My focus is on Edith Hilda Usherwood, who was then a PhD student at Imperial College working under the supervision of Martha Whitely.1

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