Henry Rzepa's Blog Chemistry with a twist

August 22, 2018

Tetrahedral carbon and cyclohexane.

Following the general recognition of carbon as being tetrahedrally tetravalent in 1869 (Paterno) and 1874 (Van’t Hoff and Le Bell), an early seminal exploitation of this to the conformation of cyclohexane was by Hermann Sachse in 1890.[1] This was verified when the Braggs in 1913[2], followed by an oft-cited article by Mohr in 1918,[3] established the crystal structure of diamond as comprising repeating rings in the chair conformation. So by 1926, you might imagine that the shape (or conformation as we would now call it) of cyclohexane would be well-known. No quite so for everyone!

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References

  1. H. Sachse, "Ueber die geometrischen Isomerien der Hexamethylenderivate", Berichte der deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft, vol. 23, pp. 1363-1370, 1890. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/cber.189002301216
  2. "The structure of the diamond", Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Containing Papers of a Mathematical and Physical Character, vol. 89, pp. 277-291, 1913. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspa.1913.0084
  3. E. Mohr, "Die Baeyersche Spannungstheorie und die Struktur des Diamanten", Journal f�r Praktische Chemie, vol. 98, pp. 315-353, 1918. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/prac.19180980123

February 5, 2011

A short history of molecular modelling: 1860-1890.

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).

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January 28, 2010

The conformation of cyclohexane

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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