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Thursday, March 11, 2010

This Day in Science History - March 11 - Archibald Scott Couper

March 11th marks the passing of Archibald Scott Couper. Couper was a Scottish chemist who discovered carbon atoms were tetravalent and could form long chain molecules. Prior to this discovery, molecules were believed to possess one central atom, but the structures of many organic compounds could not be explained by this theory.

Couper passed his paper to Charles Adolphe Wurtz to present at the French Academy of Sciences. Unfortunately, Wurtz procrastinated on passing the paper to the Academy and Couper lost priority to German chemist, August Kerkule who also discovered carbon could form bonds and determined the ring structure of benzene. Couper did not take the loss well and never published a scientific paper for the rest of his life.

One lasting contribution Couper gave to chemistry was the way chemical structures are drawn. He was the the first to draw structures where element symbols were connected by lines that represent the bonds between them. Find out what else occurred on this day in science history.

1955 - Alexander Fleming died.
Fleming was a Scottish biologist who discovered the antibiotic penicillin. Penicillin was the first of many antibiotic drugs that successfully treated a variety of bacterial diseases. This discovery would earn him part of the 1945 Nobel Prize in Medicine with Ernst Chain and Howard Florey. Fleming was also the first to identify the enzyme lysozyme and identified its antibacterial effects.


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