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Chemistry & Friedrich Wehler

Many fundamental concepts in chemistry can be traced back to Friedrich W÷hler. A mild-mannered scientist, W÷hler's discoveries revolutionized the understanding of organic chemicals. His artificial synthesis of urea eventually led to the overthrow of the theory of vitalism. In addition, W÷hler contributed to ideas on isomerism and organic radicals. His work has ultimately had a great influence on the development of many fields of scientific endeavor.

A quiet, gentle person, Friedrich W÷hler combined his "passion for chemistry" with a "great love of the open air, the beauties of nature and of all living things" (Findlay, 1965, pp. 323-324). Indeed, that branch of chemistry dealing with compounds of carbon is widely considered to have been started by W÷hler (Smith, 1949, p. 259). According to W÷hler's colleague, Justus Liebig, his synthesis of urea marked "the first organic compound artificially produced" (Partington, 1964, pp. 258-260). Born at Eschersheim, Germany on July 31, 1800, Friedrich W÷hler received a Doctor of Medicine at Heidelburg in 1823. On the advice of Leopold Gmelin, Professor of Medicine and Chemistry, however, W÷hler chose to devote himself to chemistry rather than medicine (Findlay, 1965, pp. 323-324). This decision led W÷hler to the chemistry laboratory of J÷ns Jacob Berzelius in Stockholm, Sweden (Hartley, 1971, p. 80). Of the many scientific leaders that emerged from Berzelius' laboratory, W÷hler would become the most distinguished (Tilden, 1968, p. 148). In 1825, W÷hler returned to Germany and began teaching chemistry at a technical school in Berlin (Williams, 1995, p. XVI). However, upon the death of his first wife in 1832, W÷hler accepted an invitation to work with Liebig at the University of Giessen. The calm W÷hler and the quick-tempered Liebig eventually became great friends, and performed a considerable amount of research together (Farber, 1966, pp. 211). During his ti...

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