Friedrich Wöhler

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Friedrich Wöhler (31 July 1800 - 23 September 1882) was a German chemist, best known for his synthesis of urea, but also the first to isolate several chemical elements.

Contents

Biography

He was born in Eschersheim, which belonged to Hanau at the time but is nowadays a district of Frankfurt am Main. In 1823 Wöhler finished his study of medicine in Heidelberg at the laboratory of Leopold Gmelin, who arranged for him to work under Jöns Jakob Berzelius in Stockholm. He taught chemistry from 1826 to 1831 at the Polytechnic School in Berlin until 1839 when he was stationed at the Polytechnic School at Kassel. Afterwards, he became Ordinary Professor of Chemistry in the University of Göttingen, where he remained until his death in 1882. In 1834, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Contributions to chemistry

Wöhler is regarded as a pioneer in organic chemistry as a result of him (accidentally) synthesizing urea in the Wöhler synthesis in 1828.[2] This synthesis was a landmark in the history of science which disproved and undermined the Vital Force Theory which was believed for centuries, by showing that organic compounds could be synthesized from inorganic materials.

Major works, discoveries and research

Wöhler was also known for being a co-discoverer of beryllium, silicon and silicon nitride,[3] as well as the synthesis of calcium carbide, among others. In 1834, Wöhler and Justus Liebig published an investigation of the oil of bitter almonds. They proved by their experiments that a group of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms can behave like an element, take the place of an element, and can be exchanged for elements in chemical compounds. Thus the foundation was laid of the doctrine of compound radicals, a doctrine which had a profound influence on the development of chemistry.

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