Chemical Structure, Spatial Arrangement: The Early History of Stereochemistry, 1874–1914, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Chemical Structure, Spatial Arrangement

The Early History of Stereochemistry, 1874–1914, 1st Edition

By Peter J. Ramberg


424 pages

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Offering a comprehensive narrative of the early history of stereochemistry, Dr Ramberg explores the reasons for and the consequences of the fundamental change in the meaning of chemical formulas with the emergence of stereochemistry during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. As yet relatively unexplored by historians, the development of stereochemistry - the study of the three-dimensional properties of molecules - provides a superb case study for exploring the meaning and purpose of chemical formulas, as it entailed a significant change in the meaning of chemical formulas from the purely chemical conception of 'structure' to the physico-chemical conception of molecules provided by the tetrahedral carbon atom. This study is the first to treat the emergence of the unique visual language of organic chemistry between 1830 and 1874 to place in context the near simultaneous proposal of the tetrahedral carbon atom by J.H. van 't Hoff and J.A. Le Bel in 1874. Dr Ramberg then examines the research programs in stereochemistry by Johannes Wislicenus, Arthur Hantzsch, Victor Meyer, Carl Bischoff, Emil Fischer and Alfred Werner, showing how the emergence of stereochemistry was a logical continuation of established research traditions in chemistry. In so doing, he also illustrates the novel and controversial characteristics of stereochemical ideas, especially the unprecedented use of mechanistic and dynamic principles in chemical explanation.


Selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2004 ' This book should be in all undergraduate library collections and in those at institutions where the history and ideas of science are taught.' Choice 'This book should interest not only historians of science but anyone concerned with stereochemistry and its early development.' Bull. Hist. Chem. '… the development of structural theory in three dimensions has been one of the great untold stories of the history of science. Now it is no longer untold. Peter Ramberg provides here a full and expert recounting of the origins and early development of stereochemistry… this is an extraordinary accomplishment on a technically demanding subject. Peter Ramberg has uncovered a broad and deep current of important chemical science and philosophy that deserves careful study, and future workers in this field will be heavily in his debt.' HYLE - International Journal for Philosophy of Chemistry '… Ramberg's treatment is an extraordinary accomplishment on a technically demanding subject, based on a painstaking analysis of the scientific content of historical material, including sources from Germany, the United States, and Switzerland. If one regards the present as a function of the past, then for every chemist who is interested in the roots of his own work, Ramberg's book is a 'must have'. In his preface as Series Editor, Trevor H. Levere states: 'Here is rich material for the history, philosophy, and social study of chemistry.' There is nothing left to add.' Angewandte Chemie 'I highly recommend this book, and I agree with the series editor, Trevor H. Levere, who states in the preface: 'Here is rich material for the history, philosophy, and social study of chemistry.' Chemical Heritage '… groundbreaking…' Metascience 'Chemical Structure, Spatial Arrangement can be read both as a detailed study on the subject and as a quick overview of the history of stereochemistry, because most chapters are concluded with

Table of Contents

Contents: Series editor's preface; Introduction: 'Van’t Hoff’s gold mines'; The historical development of organic chemistry to 1874; The tetrahedral carbon atom, 1874-1877; Initial reception of the tetrahedron, 1874-1887; Johannes Wislicenus and molecular dynamics; Victor Meyer: the new science of stereochemistry; Arthur Hantzsch: the stereochemistry of nitrogen; Emil Fischer and carbohydrate chemistry, 1884-1891; Alfred Werner and coordination chemistry, 1893-1914; Conclusion; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.

About the Series

Science, Technology and Culture, 1700-1945

Science, Technology and Culture, 1700-1945 focuses on the social, cultural, industrial and economic contexts of science and technology from the ‘scientific revolution’ up to the Second World War. Publishing lively, original, innovative research across a broad spectrum of subjects and genres by an international list of authors, the series has a global compass that concerns the development of modern science in all regions of the world. Subjects may range from close studies of particular sciences and problems to cultural and social histories of science, technology and biomedicine; accounts of scientific travel and exploration; transnational histories of scientific and technological change; monographs examining instruments, their makers and users; the material and visual cultures of science; contextual studies of institutions and of individual scientists, engineers and popularizers of science; and well-edited volumes of essays on themes in the field.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General