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Gerhardt, Charles Frédéric

organic formal type compounds

[gairah®t] (1816–56) French chemist: classified organic compounds according to type.

Gerhardt studied chemistry in Germany, but after quarrelling with his father he became a soldier. He was ‘bought out’ by an unknown friend and returned to chemistry with, and later with in Paris, where he met . Together they did much to advance organic chemical ideas. The ‘theory of types’ reached a high point in their hands. This was a formal system of classifying organic compounds by referring them all to one (or more) of four types (hydrogen, hydrogen chloride, water and ammonia) by formal replacement of hydrogen by organic radicals. Examples based on the water type would be

Combined with the idea of homologous series (compounds differing by CH2 units), this gave a general system of classification with some predictive power. Type formulae (such as those above) were not thought to represent structures but were formal representations of relationships and reactions. The theory rejected idea of ‘dualism’ (opposed charges within two parts of a molecule); and this, combined with Gerhardt’s antiauthoritarian and quarrelsome personality, ensured controversy (which was fruitful in leading to new results).

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