In This Chapter
Introducing pioneers in the field of organic chemistry
Finding out about discoveries that transformed organic chemistry
This chapter presents the work of ten (or so) of the great organic chemists from the past. The work of these chemists reflects the diversity of organic chemistry. Some of these folks pioneered the ideas that laid the foundation of organic chemistry as a modern science, while others made more recent contributions. In all cases, the work of these great chemists made a significant, lasting impact on the field and is worthy of admiration.
By some accounts, August Kekulé (1829–1866) was a bore as a lecturer and a klutz in the lab, but his ideas on the nature of organic compounds were extremely influential (and, more important, correct). He proposed, correctly, that carbon could make four bonds to other atoms, and could form complicated structures by combining with other carbon atoms to make chains and rings. Kekulé also proposed the correct structure for benzene, C6H6, and notoriously bragged years after the fact that his inspiration for the cyclic structure of benzene came from a dream he had of a snake biting its tail, a claim as suspect as it is entertaining.