Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe – developer of Kolbe synthesis

Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe – developer of Kolbe synthesis

Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe

Biography & Contributions

Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe was a German chemist born on September 27, 1818 – died on November 25, 1884.

Kolbe coined the term synthesis, and contributed to the philosophical demise of vitalism through the synthesis of the biologic natural product acetic acid from carbon disulfide, to structural theory via modifications to the idea of "radicals" and accurate prediction of the existence of secondary and tertiary alcohols.

Kolbe promoted the idea that organic compounds could be derived from substances clearly sourced from outside this "organic" context, directly or indirectly, by substitution processes.

Kolbe also introduced a modified idea of structural radicals. Kolbe was the first person to use the word synthesis in its present-day meaning and contributed a number of new chemical reactions.

Kolbe developed procedures for the electrolysis of the salts of fatty and other carboxylic acids (Kolbe electrolysis) and prepared salicylic acid, a building block of aspirin in a process called Kolbe synthesis or Kolbe-Schmitt reaction.

His method for the synthesis of nitriles is called the Kolbe nitrile synthesis and with Edward Frankland, he found that nitriles can be hydrolyzed to the corresponding acids.

Carbon Disulfide

Carbon disulfide is a colorless volatile liquid with an "ether-like" odor. It is widely used in the synthesis of organosulfur compounds such as metham sodium, a soil fumigant and is commonly used in the production of the soft fabric viscose. Carbon disulfide is naturally formed in the mudpots of volcanic solfataras. It serves as a source of hydrogen sulfide. Carbon disulfide is used as an insecticide for the fumigation of grains, nursery stock, in fresh fruit conservation and as a soil disinfectant against insects and nematodes. Carbon disulfide is a solvent for phosphorus, sulfur, selenium, bromine, iodine, fats, resins, rubber, and asphalt. It has been used in the purification of single-walled carbon nanotubes.

Acetic acid

Acetic acid is the second simplest carboxylic acid and is an important chemical reagent and industrial chemical, mainly used in the production of cellulose acetate for photographic film and polyvinyl acetate for wood glue, as well as synthetic fibers and fabrics. Acetic acid is mildly corrosive to metals including iron, magnesium, and zinc, forming hydrogen gas and salts called acetates. Acetic acid is often used as a solvent for reactions involving carbocations.

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