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More On The Karlsruhe Congress

October 11, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 41

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Sarah Everts’ excellent article, “When Science Went International,” discusses the confusion in chemistry during the first half of the 19th century regarding atomic and molecular weights; the 1st International Congress of Chemists at Karlsruhe, Baden, organized to resolve the difficulty; the results of the meeting, especially its paving the way for a consistent periodic system; and the sesquicentennial celebration held this year on Sept. 3–4 in Karlsruhe to commemorate this historic milestone (C&EN, Sept. 6, page 60). Anyone interested in further details concerning all these events can consult our lengthy article, “The 150th Anniversary of the First International Congress of Chemists, Karlsruhe, Germany, September 3–5, 1860,” which includes extensive quotations, 20 illustrations, and 86 references (Chem. Educator 2010, 15, 309).

George B. Kauffman
Fresno, Calif.
Jean-Pierre Adloff
Strasbourg, France

I enjoyed the article about the Karlsruhe Congress but have one quibble. The error of Berzelius was not in assuming that all chemical bonding is electrostatic (it is), but in viewing atoms as spheres with uniform distributions of electric charge. A covalent bond exists because the attractive forces between electrons and nuclei outweigh the repulsive forces between nuclei and between electrons. This is more complex than the attractions between cations and anions, but it is still electrostatic.

Henry Abrash
Los Angeles


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