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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index W > Friedrich Wöhler Quotes

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Friedrich Wöhler
(31 Jul 1800 - 23 Sep 1882)

German chemist who was the first to create an organic compound (urea) from an inorganic one, proving it was possible (despite a long-held belief by chemists of the time that it was not).

Science Quotes by Friedrich Wöhler (7 quotes)

Friedrich Wöhler - Frederick Woehler
Friedrich Wöhler
(also known as Frederick Woehler)
1839—The fermentation satire
(Preliminary Report by Letter) Schwindler
I am about to develop a new theory of wine fermentation … Depending on the weight, these seeds carry fermentation to completion somewhat less than as in the beginning, which is understandable … I shall develop a new theory of wine fermentation [showing] what simple means Nature employs in creating the most amazing phenomena. I owe it to the use of an excellent microscope designed by Pistorius.
When brewer’s yeast is mixed with water the microscope reveals that the yeast dissolves into endless small balls, which are scarcely 1/800th of a line in diameter … If these small balls are placed in sugar water, it can be seen that they consist of the eggs of animals. As they expand, they burst, and from them develop small creatures that multiply with unbelievable rapidity in a most unheard of way. The form of these animals differs from all of the 600 types described up until now. They possess the shape of a Beinsdorff still (without the cooling apparatus). The head of the tube is a sort of proboscis, the inside of which is filled with fine bristles 1/2000th of a line long. Teeth and eyes are not discernible; however, a stomach, intestinal canal, anus (a rose red dot), and organs for secretion of urine are plainly discernible. From the moment they are released from the egg one can see these animals swallow the sugar from the solution and pass it to the stomach. It is digested immediately, a process recognized easily by the resultant evacuation of excrements. In a word, these infusors eat sugar, evacuate ethyl alcohol from the intestinal canal, and carbon dioxide from the urinary organs. The bladder, in the filled state, has the form of a champagne bottle; when empty, it is a small button … As soon as the animals find no more sugar present, they eat each other up, which occurs through a peculiar manipulation; everything is digested down to the eggs which pass unchanged through the intestinal canal. Finally, one again fermentable yeast, namely the seed of the animals, which remain over.
— Friedrich Wöhler
In 'Das entriithselle Geheimiss der geisligen Giihrung', Annalen der Pharmacie und Chemie (1839), 29, 100-104; adapted from English translalion by Ralph E. Oesper, The Human Side of Scientists (1975), 203-205.
Science quotes on:  |  Alcohol (16)  |  Animal (309)  |  Fermentation (14)  |  Microscope (68)  |  Structure (191)  |  Wine (23)  |  Yeast (5)

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.
— Friedrich Wöhler
Letter to Christian Schönbein (21 May 1862), The Letters of Faraday and Schoenbein, 1836-1862 (1899), footnote, 225.
Science quotes on:  |  Boast (12)  |  Contribution (49)  |  Development (228)  |  Formula (51)  |  Inert (9)  |  Modern (104)  |  Organic Chemistry (33)  |  System (141)  |  Trade (24)

If in the citation of work that we have both done together only one of us is named, and especially in a journal [Annalen der Chemie] in which both are named on the title page, about which everyone knows that you are the actual editor, and this editor allows that to happen and does not show the slightest consideration to report it, then everyone will conclude that this represents an agreement between us, that the work is yours alone, and that I am a jackass.
— Friedrich Wöhler
Letter from Wohler to Liebig (15 Nov 1840). In A. W. Hofmann (ed.), Aus Justus Liebigs und Friedrich Wohlers Briefwechsel (1888), Vol. 1, 166. Trans. W. H. Brock.
Science quotes on:  |  Agreement (29)  |  Citation (4)  |  Consideration (65)  |  Editor (4)  |  Jackass (3)  |  Journal (13)  |  Report (31)  |  Title (10)  |  Work (457)

In a manner of speaking, I can no longer hold my chemical water. I must tell you that I can make urea without the use of kidneys of any animal, be it man or dog. Ammonium cyanate is urea.
— Friedrich Wöhler
Letter from Wohler to Berzelius (22 Feb 1828). In O. Wallach (ed.), Briefwechsel zwischen J. Berzelius und F. Wohler (1901), Vol. 1, 206. Trans. W. H. Brock.
Science quotes on:  |  Ammonia (11)  |  Animal (309)  |  Chemical (72)  |  Dog (39)  |  Kidney (13)  |  Speaking (38)  |  Water (244)

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.
— Friedrich Wöhler
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.
Science quotes on:  |  Boundless (11)  |  Dread (10)  |  Enter (20)  |  Escape (34)  |  Forest (88)  |  Impression (51)  |  Madness (26)  |  Monstrous (7)  |  Organic Chemistry (33)  |  Primeval (8)  |  Remarkable (34)

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.]
— Friedrich Wöhler
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.
Science quotes on:  |  Ammonia (11)  |  Animal (309)  |  Artificial (26)  |  Discovery (591)  |  Inorganic (11)  |  Investigation (123)  |  Organic Chemistry (33)  |  Reaction (59)  |  Result (250)  |  Substance (73)  |  Unanticipated (2)

To wage war with Marchand or anyone else again will benefit nobody and bring little profit to science. You consume yourself in this way, you ruin your liver and eventually your nerves with Morrison pills. Imagine the year 1900 when we have disintegrated into carbonic acid, ammonia and water and our bone substance is perhaps once more a constituent of the bones of the dog who defiles our graves. Who will then worry his head as to whether we have lived in peace or anger, who then will know about your scientific disputes and of your sacrifice of health and peace of mind for science? Nobody. But your good ideas and the discoveries you have made, cleansed of all that is extraneous to the subject, will still be known and appreciated for many years to come. But why am I trying to advise the lion to eat sugar.
— Friedrich Wöhler
Letter from Wohler to Liebig (9 Mar 1843). In A. W. Hofmann (ed.), Aus Justus Liebigs und Friedrich Wohlers Briefwechsel (1888), Vol. 1, 224. Trans. Ralph Oesper, The Human Side of Scientists (1975), 205.
Science quotes on:  |  Ammonia (11)  |  Bone (57)  |  Carbon Dioxide (20)  |  Discovery (591)  |  Dispute (15)  |  Grave (20)  |  Health (136)  |  Idea (440)  |  Lion (15)  |  Peace (58)  |  Sugar (13)  |  War (144)

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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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