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Meyer, Viktor

compounds lectures chemists bunsen

[miy er] (1848–97) German chemist: wide-ranging chemical experimenter.

Meyer’s father, a dye merchant, wished his sons to become chemists; Viktor wanted to be an actor. The family persuaded him to attend some lectures in Heidelberg, and lectures on chemistry duly converted him. He became an enthusiastic and successful chemistry student, and later a strikingly effective lecturer, perhaps because of his acting skills. After working as assistant to Bunsen and to he became professor at Zürich at the early age of 24. Later he succeeded Bunsen at Heidelberg, but in the 1880s he became ill and depressed and later killed himself with cyanide, a fate too common among famous chemists.

His early work on benzene compounds established the orientation of many substituted acids, but his main fame in the 1870s was due to his work on nitroparaffins; he was also the first to prepare oximes, by the reaction of hydroxylamine H2NOH with an aldehyde or ketone. His name is much linked with a method for finding relative molecular mass by measuring vapour density; he used this first for organic compounds and then (at temperatures up to 3000°C) for inorganic compounds and elements. In 1883 he discovered (through a lecture demonstration which failed) the novel sulphur ring-compound thiophene, parent of a series of sulphur compounds. He also did valuable work in stereochemistry (he invented this word, usefully shorter than ‘chemistry in space’) and he discovered ‘steric hindrance’, which he first observed in ortho-substituted benzoic acids. He made a novel range of aromatic iodine compounds and he studied what later came to be seen as electronic effects on acidity in organic molecules.

Meyerhof, Otto Fritz [next] [back] Metcalfe, Jane - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Chronology: Jane Metcalfe, Social and Economic Impact

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