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Who said: “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index O > Category: Organic Chemistry

Organic Chemistry Quotes (33 quotes)

An diesen Apparate ist nichts neu als seine Einfachkeit und die vollkommene zu Verlaessigkeit, welche er gewaehst.
In this apparatus is nothing new but its simplicity and thorough trustworthiness.
On his revolutionary method of organic analysis.
Poggendorf's Annalen, (1831), 21, 4. Trans. W. H. Brock.
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Be a physical chemist, an organic chemist, an analytical chemist, if you will; but above all be a Chemist.
[Admonishing his students to avoid over-specialization.]
F. H. Getman, The Life of Ira Remsen (1940), 71.
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But if we are to control evolution we shall have to find out how to influence gene reproduction in a definite direction, just as organic chemists nowadays work for definite ends. Such a possibility is at present entirely beyond our grasp, but a century hence it may not be so.
In 'The Biochemistry of the Individual' (1937), collected in Neurath Hans (ed.), Perspectives in Biochemistry (1989), 6.
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Every chemical substance, whether natural or artificial, falls into one of two major categories, according to the spatial characteristic of its form. The distinction is between those substances that have a plane of symmetry and those that do not. The former belong to the mineral, the latter to the living world.
Pasteur Vallery-Radot (ed.), Oeuvres de Pasteur (1922-1939), Vol. I, 331. Quoted in Patrice Debré, Louis Pasteur, trans. Elborg Forster (1994), 261.
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I am afraid I shall have to give up my trade; I am far too inert to keep up with organic chemistry, it is becoming too much for me, though I may boast of having contributed something to its development. The modern system of formulae is to me quite repulsive.
Letter to Christian Schönbein (21 May 1862), The Letters of Faraday and Schoenbein, 1836-1862 (1899), footnote, 225.
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I do not believe that the present flowering of science is due in the least to a real appreciation of the beauty and intellectual discipline of the subject. It is due simply to the fact that power, wealth and prestige can only be obtained by the correct application of science.
'Some Reflections on the Present Status of Organic Chemistry', in Science and Human Progress: Addresses at the Celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of the Mellon Institute (1963), 90.
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I have always felt that I understood a phenomenon only to the extent that I could visualise it. Much of the charm organic chemical research has for me derives from structural formulae. When reading chemical journals, I look for formulae first.
From Design to Discovery (1990), 122.
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I have always had the feeling that organic chemistry is a very peculiar science, that organic chemists are unlike other men, and there are few occupations that give more satisfactions [sic] than masterly experimentation along the old lines of this highly specialised science.
Henderson's memories, unpublished typescript, 85-6, Harvard University Archives 4450.7.2. Quoted in J. S. Fruton, Contrasts in Scientific Style (1990), 194.
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I hope that in due time the chemists will justify their proceedings by some large generalisations deduced from the infinity of results which they have collected. For me I am left hopelessly behind and I will acknowledge to you that through my bad memory organic chemistry is to me a sealed book. Some of those here, [August] Hoffman for instance, consider all this however as scaffolding, which will disappear when the structure is built. I hope the structure will be worthy of the labour. I should expect a better and a quicker result from the study of the powers of matter, but then I have a predilection that way and am probably prejudiced in judgment.
Letter to Christian Schönbein (9 Dec 1852), The Letters of Faraday and Schoenbein, 1836-1862 (1899), 209-210.
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I liked science. I wasn’t mathematically oriented, so I became an organic chemist.
As quoted in Columbia University Press Release, On Campus (21 Feb 2013).
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I think chemistry is being frittered away by the hairsplitting of the organic chemists; we have new compounds discovered, which scarcely differ from the known ones and when discovered are valueless—very illustrations perhaps of their refinements in analysis, but very little aiding the progress of true science.
Letter to William Grove (5 Jan 1845), The Letters of Faraday and Schoenbein, 1836-1862 (1899), Footnote, 209.
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In inorganic chemistry the radicals are simple; in organic chemistry they are compounds—that is the sole difference.
Joint paper with Liebig, but written by Dumas, Comptes Rendus 1837, 5, 567. Trans. J. R. Partington, A History of Chemistry, Vol. 4, 351.
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In organic chemistry there exist certain types which are conserved even when, in place of hydrogen, equal volumes of chlorine, of bromine, etc. are introduced.
Comptes Rendus, 1839, 8, 609-22. Trans. J. R. Partington, A History of Chemistry, Vol. 4, 364.
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In the benzene nucleus we have been given a soil out of which we can see with surprise the already-known realm of organic chemistry multiply, not once or twice but three, four, five or six times just like an equivalent number of trees. What an amount of work had suddenly become necessary, and how quickly were busy hands found to carry it out! First the eye moves up the six stems opening out from the tremendous benzene trunk. But already the branches of the neighbouring stems have become intertwined, and a canopy of leaves has developed which becomes more spacious as the giant soars upwards into the air. The top of the tree rises into the clouds where the eye cannot yet follow it. And to what an extent is this wonderful benzene tree thronged with blossoms! Everywhere in the sea of leaves one can spy the slender hydroxyl bud: hardly rarer is the forked blossom [Gabelblüte] which we call the amine group, the most frequent is the beautiful cross-shaped blossom we call the methyl group. And inside this embellishment of blossoms, what a richness of fruit, some of them shining in a wonderful blaze of color, others giving off an overwhelming fragrance.
A. W. Hofmann, after-dinner speech at Kekulé Benzolfest (Mar 1890). Trans. in W. H. Brock, O. Theodor Benfrey and Susanne Stark, 'Hofmann's Benzene Tree at the Kekulé Festivities', Journal of Chemical Education (1991), 68, 887-8.
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It may sound like a lot of work to keep up with organic chemistry, and it is; however, those who haven't the time to do it become subject to decay in the ability to teach and to contribute to the Science—a sort of first-order process the half-life of which can't be much more than a year or two.
Highlights of Organic Chemistry: An Advanced Textbook (1974), 112.
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One of the most immediate consequences of the electrochemical theory is the necessity of regarding all chemical compounds as binary substances. It is necessary to discover in each of them the positive and negative constituents... No view was ever more fitted to retard the progress of organic chemistry. Where the theory of substitution and the theory of types assume similar molecules, in which some of the elements can be replaced by others without the edifice becoming modified either in form or outward behaviour, the electrochemical theory divides these same molecules, simply and solely, it may be said, in order to find in them two opposite groups, which it then supposes to be combined with each other in virtue of their mutual electrical activity... I have tried to show that in organic chemistry there exist types which are capable, without destruction, of undergoing the most singular transformations according to the nature of the elements.
Traité de Chemie Appliquée aux Arts, Vol. I (1828), 53. Trans. J. R. Partington, A History of Chemistry, Vol. 4, 366.
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One of the most striking evidences of the reliability of the organic chemist's methods of determining molecular structure is the fact that he has never been able to derive satisfactory structures for supposed molecules which are in fact nonexistent.
Physical Organic Chemistry; Reaction Rates, Equilibria, and Mechanisms (1940),38.
Science quotes on:  |  Molecule (104)

Organic Chemistry has become a vast rubbish heap of puzzling and bewildering compounds.
Preface to A. W. Stewart, Recent Advances in Organic Chemistry (1908), xiii.

Organic chemistry has literally placed a new nature beside the old. And not only for the delectation and information of its devotees; the whole face and manner of society has been altered by its products. We are clothed, ornamented and protected by forms of matter foreign to Nature; we travel and are propelled, in, on and by them. Their conquest of our powerful insect enemies, their capacity to modify the soil and control its microscopic flora, their ability to purify and protect our water, have increased the habitable surface of the earth and multiplied our food supply; and the dramatic advances in synthetic medicinal chemistry comfort and maintain us, and create unparalleled social opportunities (and problems).
In 'Synthesis', in A. Todd (ed.), Perspectives in Organic Chemistry (1956), 180.
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Organic chemistry is the chemistry of carbon compounds. Biochemistry is the study of carbon compounds that crawl.
Often seen quoted, though without source, for example, in Vassilis Mougios, Exercise Biochemistry (2006), 1. [Please contact webmaster if you can identify the author and a primary source.]
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Organic chemistry is the study of organs; inorganic chemistry is the study of the insides of organs.
Barefoot Boy with Cheek (1943), 129.
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Organic chemistry just now is enough to drive one mad. It gives me the impression of a primeval forest full of the most remarkable things, a monstrous and boundless thicket, with no way of escape, into which one may well dread to enter.
Letter to J.J. Berzelius (28 Jan 1835). In Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Nov 1949), 310. Date of letter as given in Alan L. Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 267. An alternate translation is “Organic chemistry nowadays almost drives one mad to me it appears like a primeval tropical forest full of the most remarkable things a dreadful endless jungle into which one dare not enter for there seems no way out.” as given in J.R. Partington, A History of Chemistry (1901), Vol. 4, 327.
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Suppose [an] imaginary physicist, the student of Niels Bohr, is shown an experiment in which a virus particle enters a bacterial cell and 20 minutes later the bacterial cell is lysed and 100 virus particles are liberated. He will say: “How come, one particle has become 100 particles of the same kind in 20 minutes? That is very interesting. Let us find out how it happens! How does the particle get in to the bacterium? How does it multiply? Does it multiply like a bacterium, growing and dividing, or does it multiply by an entirely different mechanism ? Does it have to be inside the bacterium to do this multiplying, or can we squash the bacterium and have the multiplication go on as before? Is this multiplying a trick of organic chemistry which the organic chemists have not yet discovered ? Let us find out. This is so simple a phenomenon that the answers cannot be hard to find. In a few months we will know. All we have to do is to study how conditions will influence the multiplication. We will do a few experiments at different temperatures, in different media, with different viruses, and we will know. Perhaps we may have to break into the bacteria at intermediate stages between infection and lysis. Anyhow, the experiments only take a few hours each, so the whole problem can not take long to solve.”
[Eight years later] he has not got anywhere in solving the problem he set out to solve. But [he may say to you] “Well, I made a slight mistake. I could not do it in a few months. Perhaps it will take a few decades, and perhaps it will take the help of a few dozen other people. But listen to what I have found, perhaps you will be interested to join me.”
From 'Experiments with Bacterial Viruses (Bacteriophages)', Harvey Lecture (1946), 41, 161-162. As cited in Robert Olby, The Path of the Double Helix: The Discovery of DNA (1974, 1994), 237.
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The artificial products do not have any molecular dissymmetry; and I could not indicate the existence of a more profound separation between the products born under the influence of life and all the others.
Quoted in Joseph S. Fruton, Proteins, Enzymes, Genes: The Interplay of Chemistry and Biology (1999), 135.
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The elements of the living body have the chemical peculiarity of forming with each other most numerous combinations and very large molecules, consisting of five, six or even seven different elements.
In discourse (10 Dec 1893) to General Meeting, Nassau Association for Natural Science, Wiesbaden, Germany. Printed in 'The Distribution of the Organic Elements', The Chemical News and Journal of Industrial Science (1895), 71, No. 1832, 19.
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The structural formula of the organic chemist is not the canvas on which the cubist artist should impose his drawings which he alone can interpret.
'A Pragmatic System of Notation for Electronic Valance Conceptions in Chemical Formulas', Chemical Reviews, 1928, 5, 558-9.

The structural theory of Kekulé has been the growth hormone of organic chemistry.
Co-author with Melville Calvin (1911-1997)
The Theory of Organic Chemistry (1941), Preface, v.
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The synthesis of substances occurring in Nature, perhaps in greater measure than activities in any other area of organic chemistry, provides a measure of the conditions and powers of science.
Synthesis', in A. Todd (ed.), Perspectives in Organic Chemistry (1956), 155.
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This investigation has yielded an unanticipated result that reaction of cyanic acid with ammonia gives urea, a noteworthy result in as much as it provides an example of the artificial production of an organic, indeed a so-called animal, substance from inorganic substances.
[The first report of the epoch-making discovery, that an organic compound can be produced from inorganic substances.]
In 'On the Artificial Formation of Urea'. In J.C. Poggendorff's Annalen der Physik und Chemie (1828), 88, 253. Alternate translation in 'Über Künstliche Bildung des Hamstoffs', Annalen der Physik und Chemie (1828), 12, 253, as translated in Quarterly Journal of Science (Apr-Jun 1828), 25, 491. Collected in Henry Marshall Leicester and Herbert S. Klickstein, A Source Book in Chemistry, 1400-1900 (1951), 310.
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To many physical chemists in the 1920's and early 1930's, the organic chemist was a grubby artisan engaged in an unsystematic search for new compounds, a search which was strongly influenced by the profit motive.
'Physical Organic Chemistry in Retrospect', Journal of Chemical Education, 1966, 43, 464.

We define organic chemistry as the chemistry of carbon compounds.
Lehrbuch der Organischen Chemie (1861), Vol. 1, 11. Trans. W. H. Brock.
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We may regard [Scheele] not only as having given the first indication of the rich harvest to be reaped by the investigation of the compounds of organic chemistry, but as having been the first to discover and make use of characteristic reactions by which closely allied substances can be detected and separated, so that he must be considered one of the chief founders of analytical chemistry.
In Treatise on Chemistry (1877, 1890), Vol. 1, 23.
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[The] structural theory is of extreme simplicity. It assumes that the molecule is held together by links between one atom and the next: that every kind of atom can form a definite small number of such links: that these can be single, double or triple: that the groups may take up any position possible by rotation round the line of a single but not round that of a double link: finally that with all the elements of the first short period [of the periodic table], and with many others as well, the angles between the valencies are approximately those formed by joining the centre of a regular tetrahedron to its angular points. No assumption whatever is made as to the mechanism of the linkage. Through the whole development of organic chemistry this theory has always proved capable of providing a different structure for every different compound that can be isolated. Among the hundreds of thousands of known substances, there are never more isomeric forms than the theory permits.
Presidential Address to the Chemical Society (16 Apr 1936), Journal of the Chemical Society (1936), 533.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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