Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
38   
[HISTORY
CHEMISTRY

J. A. Le Bel, J. Wislicenus, van’t Hoff and others showed that substances having the same graphic formulae vary in properties and reactions, and consequently the formulae need modification in order to exhibit these differences. Such isomerism, named stereo-isomerism (q.v.), has been assiduously developed during recent years; it prevails among many different classes of organic compounds and many examples have been found in inorganic chemistry.

The theory of valency as a means of showing similarity of properties and relative composition became a dominant feature of chemical theory, the older hypotheses of types, radicals, &c. being more or less discarded. We have seen how its Periodic law.utilization in the “structure theory” permitted great clarification, and attempts were not wanting for the deduction of analogies or a periodicity between elements. Frankland had recognized the analogies existing between the chemical properties of nitrogen, phosphorus, arsenic and antimony, noting that they act as tri- or penta-valent. Carbon was joined with silicon, zirconium and titanium, while boron, being trivalent, was relegated to another group. A general classification of elements, however, was not realized by Frankland, nor even by Odling, who had also investigated the question from the valency standpoint. The solution came about by arranging the elements in the order of their atomic weights, tempering the arrangement with the results deduced from the theory of valencies and experimental observations. Many chemists contributed to the establishment of such a periodicity, the greatest advances being made by John Newlands in England, Lothar Meyer in Germany, and D. J. Mendeléeff in St Petersburg. For the development of this classification see Element.

In the above sketch we have briefly treated the history of the main tendencies of our science from the earliest times to the establishment of the modern laws and principles. We Summary.have seen that the science took its origin in the arts practised by the Egyptians, and, having come under the influence of philosophers, it chose for its purpose the isolation of the quinta essentia, and subsequently the “art of making gold and silver.” This spirit gave way to the physicians, who regarded “chemistry as the art of preparing medicines,” a denotation which in turn succumbed to the arguments of Boyle, who regarded it as the “science of the composition of substances,” a definition which adequately fits the science to-day. We have seen how his classification of substances into elements and compounds, and the definitions which he assigned to these species, have similarly been retained; and how Lavoisier established the law of the “conservation of mass,” overthrew the prevailing phlogistic theory, and became the founder of modern chemistry by the overwhelming importance which he gave to the use of the balance. The development of the atomic theory and its concomitants—the laws of chemical combination and the notion of atoms and equivalents—at the hands of Dalton and Berzelius, the extension to the modern theory of the atom and molecule, and to atomic and molecular weights by Avogadro, Ampère, Dumas, Laurent, Gerhardt, Cannizzaro and others, have been noted. The structure of the molecule, which mainly followed investigations in organic compounds, Frankland’s conception of valency, and finally the periodic law, have also been shown in their chronological order. The principles outlined above constitute the foundations of our science; and although it may happen that experiments may be made with which they appear to be not in complete agreement, yet in general they constitute a body of working hypotheses of inestimable value.

Chemical Education.—It is remarkable that systematic instruction in the theory and practice of chemistry only received earnest attention in our academic institutions during the opening decades of the 19th century. Although for a long time lecturers and professors had been attached to universities, generally their duties had also included the study of physics, mineralogy and other subjects, with the result that chemistry received scanty encouragement. Of practical instruction there was none other than that to be gained in a few private laboratories and in the shops of apothecaries. The necessity for experimental demonstration and practical instruction, in addition to academic lectures, appears to have been urged by the French chemists L. N. Vauquelin, Gay Lussac, Thénard, and more especially by A. F. Fourcroy and G. F. Rouelle, while in England Humphry Davy expounded the same idea in the experimental demonstrations which gave his lectures their brilliant charm. But the real founder of systematic instruction in our science was Justus von Liebig, who, having accepted the professorship at Giessen in 1824, made his chemical laboratory and course of instruction the model of all others. He emphasized that the practical training should include (1) the qualitative and quantitative analysis of mixtures, (2) the preparation of substances according to established methods, (3) original research—a course which has been generally adopted. The pattern set by Liebig at Giessen was adopted by F. Wöhler at Göttingen in 1836, by R. W. Bunsen at Marburg in 1840, and by O.L. Erdmann at Leipzig in 1843; and during the ’fifties and ’sixties many other laboratories were founded. A new era followed the erection of the laboratories at Bonn and Berlin according to the plans of A. W. von Hofmann in 1867, and of that at Leipzig, designed by Kolbe in 1868. We may also mention the famous laboratory at Munich designed by A. von Baeyer in 1875.

In Great Britain the first public laboratory appears to have been opened in 1817 by Thomas Thomson at Glasgow. But the first important step in providing means whereby students could systematically study chemistry was the foundation of the College of Chemistry in 1845. This institution was taken over by the Government in 1853, becoming the Royal College of Chemistry, and incorporated with the Royal School of Mines; in 1881 the names were changed to the Normal School of Science and Royal School of Mines, and again in 1890 to the Royal College of Science. In 1907 it was incorporated in the Imperial College of Science and Technology. Under A. W. von Hofmann, who designed the laboratories and accepted the professorship in 1845 at the instigation of Prince Albert, and under his successor (in 1864) Sir Edward Frankland, this institution became one of the most important centres of chemical instruction. Oxford and Cambridge sadly neglected the erection of convenient laboratories for many years, and consequently we find technical schools and other universities having a far better equipment and offering greater facilities. In the provinces Victoria University at Manchester exercised the greater impetus, numbering among its professors Sir W.H. Perkin and Sir Henry Roscoe.

In America public laboratory instruction was first instituted at Yale College during the professorship of Benjamin Silliman. To the great progress made in recent years F. W. Clarke, W. Gibbs, E. W. Morley, Ira Remsen, and T. W. Richards have especially contributed.

In France the subject was almost entirely neglected until late in the 19th century. The few laboratories existing in the opening decades were ill-fitted, and the exorbitant fees constituted a serious bar to general instruction, for these institutions received little government support. In 1869 A. Wurtz reported the existence of only one efficient laboratory in France, namely the École Normale Supérieure, under the direction of H. Sainte Claire Deville. During recent years chemistry has become one of the most important subjects in the curriculum of technical schools and universities, and at the present time no general educational institution is complete until it has its full equipment of laboratories and lecture theatres.

Chemical Literature.—The growth of chemical literature since the publication of Lavoisier’s famous Traité de chimie in 1789, and of Berzelius’ Lehrbuch der Chemie in 1808–1818, has been enormous. These two works, and especially the latter, were the models followed by Thénard, Liebig, Strecker, Wöhler and many others, including Thomas Graham, upon whose Elements of Chemistry was founded Otto’s famous Lehrbuch der Chemie, to which H. Kopp contributed the general theoretical part, Kolbe the organic, and Buff and Zamminer the physico-chemical. Organic chemistry was especially developed by the publication of Gerhardt’s Traité de chimie organique in 1853–1856, and of Kekulé’s Lehrbuch der organischen Chemie in 1861–1882. General theoretical and physical chemistry was treated with conspicuous acumen by Lothar Meyer in his Moderne Theorien, by W. Ostwald in his Lehrbuch der allgem. Chemie (1884–1887), and by Nernst in his Theoretische Chemie. In English, Roscoe and Schorlemmer’s Treatise on Chemistry is a standard work; it records