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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

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Abstract Volume 13 Issue 5 (2008) pp 318-325

Chemistry Families and Their Genes: Culture, Tradition, and Heritage

G. Wayne Craig* and George B. Kauffman

*Lead Finding Research, Oberwilerstrasse 76 CH-4102 Binningen, Switzerland, and Department of Chemistry, California State University, Fresno, Fresno, CA 93740-8034,

Published online: 21 September 2008

Abstract. A chemistry family is an interesting expression to contemplate.  The Nobel gases, alkalai metals, or the nonmetals are the kind of chemistry families that we recognize related by virtue of their common electronic structure proposed in the periodic chart in 1869 by Dmitrii Ivanovich Mendeleev (1834-1907).  But in structural terms a chemistry family may focus on the wide diversity of functional groups found in nature, i.e., alkanes, alcohols, alkenes, carboxylic acids, etc.  In biogenetic terminology the families of chemistry may be differentiated by evolution.  We view chemistry families as terpenes, steroids, amino acids, or nucleic acids that are interrelated by a common biosynthesis.  It is something of this latter connection that we focus on in this article. The genetic connection (father-son or mother-daughter) is possibly only one aspect where tradition and culture contribute to the chemistry family as a whole.  The chemistry family represents that “inheritable” information that is passed on in the making of a chemist.

Key Words: Chemistry and History; chemists in Switzerland and Germany; physical chemistry; organic chemistry; electrochemistry; inorganic chemistry; qualitative analysis; quantitative analysis; analytical chemistry

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

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Issue date: October 1, 2008

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