Foundations of Chemistry

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 149–161

On the Origin of Tetrahedral Carbon: A Case for Philosophy of Chemistry?

  • Pedro Cintas

DOI: 10.1023/A:1016063004499

Cite this article as:
Cintas, P. Foundations of Chemistry (2002) 4: 149. doi:10.1023/A:1016063004499


This essay analyzes the historical and philosophical context that led to the basic concepts of stereochemistry proposed by Van’t Hoff and Le Bel. Although it is now well established that the key idea of tetrahedral carbon, and in general a geometric view of matter, was pioneered by other chemists, Van’t Hoff and Le Bel used this idea to solve the puzzle of optical activity, thereby establishing a direct linkage between structure and physical properties. It is also interesting to note that their proposals came without experimental verification and they were largely based on experiments conducted by others. Philosophical arguments can, however, be invoked to satisfactorily validate this deductive reasoning.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pedro Cintas
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Química Orgánica, Facultad de CienciasUniversity of ExtremaduraBadajozSpain

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