Introduction to the Essay “On a New Chemistry Theory” of Archibald Couper
Archibald Scott Couper wrote in 1857 a note about his new chemical theory that was presented by Jean Baptiste Dumas at the French Academy and published in Comptes rendus. His presentation was followed by the publication of an essay entitled “Sur Une Nouvelle Theorie Chimique” in Annales de chimie et de physique. The article appeared soon after in the British magazine Philosophical Magazine entitled “On a New Chemical Theory” which contained some important changes from the version French. Almost simultaneously, Friedrich August Kekulé’s article “The Constitution and Metamorphoses of Chemical Compound and the Chemical Nature of Carbon” appeared in Annalen der Chemie und Pharmacie, in which he came to the same conclusions as Couper.
In another article on my blog I described the human and scientific events that made A.S.Couper so extraordinary and interesting. I reserved the precedence of Couper over Kekulè because he appears in this scientific story the most unlucky character, but also more brilliant. After writing his revolutionary essay Couper will soon disappear from the scientific life overwhelmed by his problems. We will no longer remember him. Only Kekulè, on the other hand, will take credit for the discoveries made, and even then famous, it will later become one of the greatest chemists of the nineteenth century.