Friedrich August Kekulé von Stradonitz

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Friedrich August Kekule von Stradonitz (also August Kekulé) (7 September 1829 – 13 July 1896) was a German organic chemist. Kekulé was born in Darmstadt, the son of a civil servant. After graduating from secondary school, in 1847 he entered the University of Giessen, with the intention of studying architecture. After hearing the lectures of Justus von Liebig he decided to study chemistry. Following his education in Giessen, he took further doctorate fellowships in Paris (1851-52), in Chur, Switzerland (1852-53), and in London (1853-55), where he was decisively influenced by Alexander Williamson.

In 1858, he was hired as a full professor at the University of Ghent. In 1867, he was asked to work at the University of Bonn. There he studied carbon organic compounds and benzene. He suggested a benzene ring structure.

Kekulé's most famous work was on the structure of benzene. In 1865 Kekulé published a paper in French suggesting that the structure contained a six-membered ring of carbon atoms with alternating single and double bonds. The next year he published a much longer paper in German on the same subject. The empirical formula for benzene had been long known, but its highly unsaturated structure was challenging to determine. Archibald Scott Couper in 1858 and Joseph Loschmidt in 1861 suggested possible structures that contained multiple double bonds or multiple rings, but the study of aromatic compounds was in its earliest years, and too little evidence was then available to help chemists decide on any particular structure.