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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

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Abstract Volume 15 (2010) pp 309-320

The 150th Anniversary of the First International Congress of Chemists, Karlsruhe, Germany, September 3–5, 1860

George B. Kauffman* and Jean-Pierre Adloff

Department of Chemistry, California State University, Fresno, Fresno, CA 93740-8034,; Honorary Professor, Université Louis Pasteur, 63 Rue Saint Urbain, Strasbourg, France F-67100,

Published: 31 July 2010

Abstract. The 19th century constituted a milestone in the history of modern chemistry with the recognition of atoms by John Dalton, the publication of Amadeo Avogadro’s principle, and the determination of atomic weights by Jöns Jacob Berzelius, Jean-Baptiste Dumas, and others. However, these concepts and findings introduced confusion among chemists, particularly in the definition of the smallest particle of matter, the relationship between inorganic and organic compounds, and the representation and meanings of atoms and molecules. In 1860 August Kekulé took the initiative of proposing the first International Congress of Chemists, in which a common language of chemistry would be established. Together with Carl W. Weltzien and Charles-Adolphe Wurtz, he planned and organized the congress, which was held in Karlsruhe. On the occasion of the sesquicentennial of the congress, this article reviews the situation preceding it, the Congress itself, and its results.

Key Words: Chemistry and History; theoretical chemistry; atomic theory; atomic weights; equivalent weights; inorganic chemistry; organic chemistry; classification of elements; avogadro’s hypothesis; chemical bonding; periodic table; international chemical congresses

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