Saturday, February 6, 2016

WWGS: What Would Gmelin Say?

Earlier tonight, I happened across a yellowed, dog-eared copy of The Rise and Development of Organic Chemistry, the 1894 opus* of Carl Schorlemmer, finished with help from his colleague Arthur Smithells. I didn't get a chance to read it cover to cover, but I appreciated a pithy quote in a postscript, purportedly an exchange between two chemistry heavyweights:
"When in 1829 it was found that pyro-uric and cyanuric acid were identical, W√∂hler wrote to Liebig: 'Gmelin will say, Thank God, one acid less.'"
This, of course, in reference to Gmelin's attempt to gather the mid-1800s chemistry literature into a practical reference book. He would go on to create the Gmelin Inorganic Handbook, later to evolve into the Gmelin Database, part of modern-day Reaxys.

I appreciated the formal sentiment that pervades the text; certainly it's the first chemistry book I've seen that gives the reader a parting word after the index:


I'm sure I'll have more to say later on....there's some wild structures in this book, some that should give any serious bench chemist pause:


Aromatic endoperoxides? Egad.

--
*Just found out it's free online! Go here. Happy reading!

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