Organic Chemistry in the Nineteenth Century: Theory of Radicals to Valency

Second Edition, Published 30 March 2020

6 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2020

Date Written: March 29, 2020


Organic chemistry in the nineteenth century developed with a specific order of discovery, which was the inevitable path by which our knowledge of organic chemistry had to develop. New methods of analysis of organic materials led to new experimental results, which led to new theories about the nature of organic chemistry. Some of those theories were eventually abandoned, but additional experimental results soon resulted in new theories relating to the valency of carbon atoms and the ability of carbon atoms to combine together to form chains of carbon atoms. Even theories which were later abandoned, due to being contradicted by later experimental results, were logical explanations of knowledge acquired by earlier experimental results. Due to this even incorrect theories can be said to have arisen logically from information available at a particular point in time and to have been an inevitable part of the growth in our knowledge of organic chemistry.

Keywords: History of Organic Chemistry, History of Science, Vitalism, Vital Force, Theory of Radicals, Liebig, Wohler, Law of Substitution, Berzelius, Dualistic Theory, Theory of Types, Gerhardt, Valency, Theory of Residues, Kolbe, Gay-Lussac, Kekule

Suggested Citation

Forrester, Rochelle, Organic Chemistry in the Nineteenth Century: Theory of Radicals to Valency (March 29, 2020). Second Edition, Published 30 March 2020, Available at SSRN: or

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