, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 38-48

Pasteur — The harbinger of stereochemistry

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Abstract

Twenty five years before the tetrahedral structure for carbon was proposed in 1874 to explain the optical activity and other properties of organic compounds, Louis Pasteur discovered the existence of enantiomerism in tartaric acid. He separated the oppositely shaped crystals of tartaric acid by handpicking, found their optical rotation to be in opposite directions, and concluded that this optical property was attributable to the existence of two oppositely shaped tartaric acid molecules. Thus the new subject of stereochemistry was heralded.

Nagendrappa is professor of organic chemistry (Retd), Bangalore University. He continues to teach and do research.