Molecular Synthesis, Structure, and Bonding

From the early days of the Chemical Revolution, scientists concerned themselves with how and why compounds form. Jöns Jakob Berzelius, for example, working in the first half of the 19th century, proposed that compounds were formed from atoms because of opposite electrical charges. This theory, called dualism, worked quite well, except in the emerging realm of organic chemistry; it could not explain the enormous number of compounds that were formed from four elements alone—carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen. More than a century of work by organic chemists explained this variety through new theories of molecular structure and bonding, theories that in time were transferred to the rest of chemistry. Critical to this progress were increasingly complex chemical analyses and syntheses, eventually aided by physical means like X-ray crystallography.

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The Center for Oral History captures and preserves the stories of notable figures in chemistry and related fields, with over 425 oral histories that deal with various aspects of science, of scientists, and of scientific practices. For more information please visit CHF’s Oral History Program or e-mail oralhistory@

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