[Home]Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe

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b.  September 27, 1818  in  Elliehausen, near Hanover, Germany No image available
d.  November 25, 1884  in  Leipzig, Germany
Kolbe was a German chemist. He was the first to synthesize of an organic compound from inorganic maretial.

Kolbe became an assistant to Robert Wilhelm Bunsen at the University of Marburg? in 1842, after studying chemistry with Friedrich Wöhler. Subsequently he assisted Lyon Playfair? at the University of London and from 1847 to 1851 was engaged in editing the Handwörterbuch der reinen und angewandten Chemie (Dictionary of Pure and Applied Chemistry) written by Justus von Liebig and Wöhler. Kolbe then succeeded Bunsen at Marburg, and in 1865 he went to the University of Leipzig.

At that time, it was beliefed that organic and [inorganic compounds]? are independent from each other, and that organic compounds could only be created by living organisms. Kolbe believed 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]?. He also predicted the existence of secondary and tertiary alcohols.

He worked on the electrolysis? of the salts of fatty and other acids and prepared salicylic acid, a building block of aspirin. The process was named Kolbe synthesis (or Kolbe-Schmitt? reaction), which works by heating [sodium phenolate]? (the sodium salt of phenol) with carbon dioxide under pressure (100 atm?, 125°C), then treating it with [sulfuric acid]?.

With [Sir Edward Frankland]? he found that nitriles? can be hydrolyzed to the corresponding acids. As editor of the Journal für praktische Chemie (Journal of practical chemistry, 1869), he was sometimes severely critical of the work of others.

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Last edited September 5, 2001 6:02 pm by Malcolm Farmer (diff)