Famous Scientists


Friedrich August Kekulé

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Friedrich August Kekulé

Early Life

Friedrich August Kekulé was a German scientist who came into this world on the September 7, 1829. He birth place was Darmstadt, Germany. Initially, he use to study at the local gymnasium but later on he got admitted in the University of Giessen to study architecture as per his father’s desires. It was observed at school that he was a great mathematician and was also profusely good at drawing. Chemistry was a complex subject with difficulties of organic molecular structures but it was Kekulé’s mathematical talents, exceptional memory and his intellect for space that he was so outstanding at mysterious structural problem.


Kekulé’s family was well to do and supported him with his studies and sent him to Paris. There he became friends with a renowned chemist named Charles Gerhardt. The theories of Gerhardt became foundation for his valency theory. He also worked with Charles Wurtz and Jean Baptiste Dumas who owned an only organic chemistry school in Europe that gave competition to the schools in Germany. When he was done with his studies in Paris, he moved to London and assisted John Stenhouse with his work. He also worked with Reinhold Hoffmann and William Williamson later. Kekulé worked at Heidelberg from the year 1855 to the year 1858.

Contributions and Achievements

At the end of 1858 he served as a chemistry professor at Ghent his scientific profession ended at the University of Bonn. This was the place where he had worked from 1867 till 1896 which was the year of his death. During this extensive period, Kekulé made great contributions to the field of organic chemistry and also to the German chemical industry. His students from Europe came to take chief professorships and to lead industrial labs.

Kekulé was pedantic but not a great experimentalist. He was really good at solving the problems that were related to the architecture of the new organic molecules that were being isolated by flora and fauna being created in the labs. Kekulé revealed that the clandestine of the organic chemistry was in the carbon atom and its tetravalency. Carbon has an exclusive capability of linking many isomeric combinations into long chains.

Kekulé’s best giving to organic chemistry was his key to the problem of benzene structure (C6H6). In 1865, he explained the solution to this brainteaser in the following words, “There I sat and wrote my Lehrbuch, but it did not proceed well, my mind was elsewhere. I turned the chair to the fireplace and fell half asleep. Again the atoms gamboled before my eyes. Smaller groups this time kept modestly to the background. My mind’s eyes, trained by visions of a similar kind, now distinguished larger formations of various shapes. Long rows, in many ways more densely joined; everything in movement, winding and turning like snakes. And look, what was that? One snake grabbed its own tail, and mockingly the shape whirled before my eyes. As if struck by lightning I awoke. This time again I spent the rest of the night working out the consequences.” The ring structured benzene is the emergence of Kekulé’s dream. Kekulé departed from this world on July 13, 1896.


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