Hermann Kolbe, German chemist

Hermann Kolbe, German chemist

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Credit: Bildagentur-online/Tschanz/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Hermann Kolbe (1818-1884). 1889 engraving of the German organic chemist Adolf Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe. Kolbe was an inspirational teacher and a talented researcher. He achieved great success in devising chemical pathways for the synthesis of organic compounds. One of these, the Kolbe reaction, was named after him. In this reaction an organic acid is reacted with an alkali metal to produce a salt. Electrolysis of this salt will produce simple hydrocarbons from the original acid. Kolbe did, however, hold firm to outdated ideas. He also criticised new ideas, such as vigorously abusing Kekule's (correct) theories on the structure of carbon compounds.

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