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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

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Abstract Volume 6 Issue 2 (2001) pp 121-133

Friedrich Wöhler (1800–1882), on the Bicentennial of His Birth

George B. Kauffman* and Steven H. Chooljian

*Department of Chemistry, California State University, Fresno, Fresno, CA 93740, Internal Medicine Associates of Fresno, Fresno, CA 93710

Published online: 2 March 2001

Abstract. The life and contributions to various areas of chemistry of German chemist Friedrich Wöhler (1800–1882) are briefly sketched. His serendipitous synthesis of urea from ammonium cyanate in 1828, which is dealt with in some detail, challenged the vitalistic theory that organic compounds can be produced only by living organisms and led to today’s synthetic chemical industry and its host of products that we take for granted.

Key Words:  Chemistry and History; biography

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

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Issue date: April 6, 2001

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