Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe

Infobox_Scientist
name = Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe


caption = Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe
birth_date = birth date|1818|9|27|mf=y
birth_place = Elliehausen near Göttingen, Germany
residence = Germany, England
nationality = German
death_date = death date and age|1884|11|27|1818|9|27|mf=y
death_place = Leipzig, Germany
field = Chemist
work_institutions = University of Marburg
University of Leipzig
alma_mater = University of Marburg
doctoral_advisor = Robert Bunsen
Friedrich Wöhler
doctoral_students = Peter Griess
Aleksandr Mikhailovich Zaitsev
Theodor Curtius
Ernst Otto Beckmann
Carl Graebe
Oscar Loew
Constantin Fahlberg
Nikolai Menshutkin
Vladimir Markovnikov
Jacob Volhard
Ludwig Mond
Alexander Crum Brown
Maxwell Simpson
Frederick Guthrie

known_for = Kolbe electrolysis,
Kolbe-Schmitt reaction
Kolbe nitrile synthesis
prizes =
religion =
footnotes =

Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe (September 27, 1818 – November 25, 1884) was a German chemist. He never used the first two of his given names, preferring to be known simply as Hermann Kolbe.

Life

Kolbe was born in Elliehausen, near Göttingen, Kingdom of Hanover (Germany) as the eldest son of a Protestant pastor. At the age of 13 he entered the Göttingen Gymnasium, residing at the home of one of the professors. He obtained the leaving certificate (the Abitur) six years later. He had become passionate about the study of chemistry, matriculating at the University of Göttingen in the spring of 1838 in order to study with the famous chemist Friedrich Wöhler.

In 1842 he became an assistant to Robert Bunsen at the University of Marburg; he took his doctoral degree there in 1843. A new opportunity arose in 1845, when he became assistant to Lyon Playfair at the new Museum of Economic Geology in London, where he became a close friend of Edward Frankland. From 1847 he was engaged in editing the "Handwörterbuch der reinen und angewandten Chemie" ("Dictionary of Pure and Applied Chemistry") edited by Justus von Liebig, Wöhler, and Johann Christian Poggendorff, and he also wrote an important textbook. In 1851 Kolbe succeeded Bunsen as professor of chemistry at Marburg, and in 1865 he was called to the University of Leipzig.

In 1853 he married Charlotte, the daughter of General-Major Wilhelm von Bardeleben. His wife died in 1876 after 23 years of happy marriage. They had four children.

Work

As late as the 1840s, and despite Friedrich Wöhler's synthesis of urea in 1828, some chemists still believed in the doctrine of vitalism, according to which a special life-force was necessary to create organic compounds. Kolbe developed the idea that organic compounds could be derived from inorganic ones, directly or indirectly, by substitution processes. He validated his theory by converting carbon disulfide, in several steps, to acetic acid (1843-45). Introducing a modified idea of structural radicals, he contributed to the establishment of structural theory. One of the more dramatic successes of his theory was his prediction of the existence of secondary and tertiary alcohols, a conjecture that was soon confirmed by the synthesis of these substances.

He worked on the electrolysis of the salts of fatty and other acids (Kolbe electrolysis) [cite journal
title = Untersuchungen über die Elektrolyse organischer Verbindungen
author = Hermann Kolbe
journal = Annalen der Chemie und Pharmacie
year = 1849
volume = 69
issue = 3
pages = 257–372
doi = 10.1002/jlac.18490690302
] and prepared salicylic acid, a building block of aspirin in a process called Kolbe synthesis or Kolbe-Schmitt reaction [cite journal
title = Ueber Synthese der Salicylsäure
author = Hermann Kolbe
journal = Annalen der Chemie und Pharmacie
year = 1860
volume = 113
issue = 1
pages = 125–127
doi = 10.1002/jlac.18601130120
] . A certain method for the synthesis of nitriles is called the Kolbe nitrile synthesis.

Hermann Kolbe was the first person to use the word synthesis in the present day meaning.

With Edward Frankland he found that nitriles can be hydrolyzed to the corresponding acids.

Conflicts

As editor of the "Journal für praktische Chemie" ("Journal of practical chemistry", from 1870 to 1884), Kolbe was sometimes so severely critical of the work of others, especially after about 1874, that some wondered whether he might have been suffering a mental illness. He was intolerant of what he regarded as loose speculation parading as theory, and sought through his writings to save his beloved science of chemistry from what he regarded as the scourge of modern structural theory.

His rejection of structural chemistry, especially the theories of the structure of benzene by August Kekulé, the theory of the asymmetric carbon atom by J.H. van't Hoff, and the reform of chemical nomenclature by Adolf von Baeyer, resulted in vituperative articles in the "Journal für Praktische Chemie". Some translated quotes illustrate his manner of articulating the deep conflict between his interpretation of chemistry and that of the structural chemists: "...Baeyer is an excellent experimentor, but he is only an empiricist, lacking sense and capability, and his interpretations of his experiments show particular deficiency in his familiarity with the principles of true science..." [cite journal
title = Begründung meiner Urtheile über Ad. Baeyer's wissenschaftliche Qualification
author = Hermann Kolbe
journal = Journal für Praktische Chemie
volume = 26
issue = 1
year = 1882
pages = 308–323
doi = 10.1002/prac.18820260121
]

The violence of his language worked unfairly to limit his posthumous reputation. He died of a heart attack, in Leipzig.

References

Further reading

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  • Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe — (* 27. September 1818 in Elliehausen, heute ein Stadtbezirk von Göttingen; † 25. November 1884 in Leipzig) war ein deutscher Chemiker. Leben und Wirken Kolbe war das älteste von 15 Kindern des Pfarrers Karl Kolb …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe — Nacimiento 27 de septiembre de 1818. Elliehausen, Alemania. Fallecimiento 25 de noviembre …   Wikipedia Español

  • Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Kolbe. Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe (né à Elliehausen près de Hanovre le 27 septembre 1818 mort à Leipzig le 25 novembre 1884) était un chimiste allemand. Après avoir étudié la …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Kolbe , Adolph Wilhelm Hermann — (1818–1884) German chemist Kolbe, the son of a clergyman from Göttingen, in Germany, was the eldest of 15 children. He studied under Friedrich Wöhler at Göttingen and then, in 1842, went to Marburg as Robert Bunsen s assistant and learned his… …   Scientists

  • Hermann Kolbe — Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe Pour les articles homonymes, voir Kolbe. Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe (né à Elliehausen près de Hanovre le 27 septembre 1818 mort à Leipzig le 25 novembre 1884) était un chimiste allemand. Après avoir étudié la chimie …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Hermann Kolbe — Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe (* 27. September 1818 in Elliehausen, heute ein Stadtbezirk von Göttingen; † 25. November 1884 in Leipzig) war ein deutscher Chemiker. Kolbe hat mit der Elektrolyse von Carbonsäuren eine… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Kolbe electrolysis — Kolbe electolysis or Kolbe reaction is an organic reaction named after Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe. [cite journal title = Zersetzung der Valeriansäure durch den elektrischen Strom author = Hermann Kolbe journal = Annalen der Chemie und Pharmacie …   Wikipedia

  • Kolbe — is a surname, and may refer to:* Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe, (1818 – 1884), German chemist who gave name to Kolbe electrolysis and Kolbe Schmitt reaction * Fritz Kolbe, (1900 – 1971), World War II spy * Georg Kolbe, (1877 – 1947), sculptor *… …   Wikipedia

  • Kolbe, Hermann — ▪ German chemist in full  Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe  born Sept. 27, 1818, Elliehausen, near Göttingen, Hanover [Ger.] died Nov. 25, 1884, Leipzig, Ger.  German chemist who accomplished the first generally accepted synthesis of an organic… …   Universalium

  • Kolbe-Schmitt reaction — The Kolbe Schmitt reaction/Kolbe process (named after Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe and Rudolf Schmitt) is a carboxylation chemical reaction that proceeds by heating sodium phenolate (the sodium salt of phenol) with carbon dioxide under pressure… …   Wikipedia

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