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Karlsruhe Congress


The Karlsruhe Congress was an international meeting of chemists held in Karlsruhe, Germany from September 3, 1860 to September 5, 1860.


The meeting

The Karlsruhe Congress was called so that European chemists could discuss matters of chemical nomenclature, notation, and atomic weights. The organization, invitation, and sponsorship of the conference were handled by Kekulé, Wurtz, and Karl Weltzien.[1] As an example of the problems facing the delegates, Kekulé's Lehrbuch der Organischen Chemie gave nineteen different formulas used by chemists for acetic acid, as shown in the figure on this page.[2]

The Karlsruhe meeting ended with no firm agreement on the vexing problem of atomic and molecular weights. However, on the meeting's last day reprints of Cannizzaro's 1858 paper on atomic weights, in which he utilized earlier work by Avogadro, were distributed. Cannizzaro's efforts exerted a heavy and, in some cases, an almost immediate influence on the delegates. Lothar Meyer later wrote that on reading Cannizzaro's paper, "The scales seemed to fall from my eyes."[3]

An important long-term result of the Karlsruhe Congress was the adoption of the now-familiar atomic weights (actually, atomic masses) of approximately 1 for hydrogen, 12 for carbon, 16 for oxygen, and so forth. There was also a recognition that certain elements, such as hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen, were composed of diatomic molecules and not individual atoms. Ihde[4] has argued that the Karlsruhe meeting was the first international meeting of chemists and that it led to the eventual founding of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.


According to Wurtz's list[5], the congress was attended by the scientists listed below.

  1. Belgium. Brussels: Stas; Ghent: Donny, A. Kekulé
  2. Germany. Berlin: Ad. Baeyer, G. Quinke; Bonn: Landolt; Breslau: Lothar Meyer; Kassel: Guckelberger; Klausthal: Streng; Darmstadt: E. Winkler; Erlangen: v. Gorup-Besanez; Freiburg i. B.: v. Babo, Schneyder; Giessen: Boeckmann, H. Kopp, H. Will; Göttingen: F. Beilstein; Halle a. S.: W. Heintz; Hanover: Heeren; Heidelberg: Becker, O. Braun, R. Bunsen, L. Carius, E. Erlenmeyer, O. Mendius, Schiel; Jena: Lehmann, H. Ludwig; Karlsruhe: A. Klemm, R. Muller, J. Nessler, Petersen, K. Seubert, Weltzien; Leipzig: O. L. Erdmann, Hirzel, Knop, Kuhn; Mannheim: Gundelach, Schroeder; Marburg a. L.: R. Schmidt, Zwenger; Munich: Geiger; Nuremberg: v. Bibra; Offenbach: Grimm; Rappenau: Finck; Schönberg: R. Hoffmann; Speyer: Keller, Mühlhaüser; Stuttgart: v. Fehling, W. Hallwachs; Tübingen: Finckh, A. Naumann, A. Strecker; Wiesbaden: Kasselmann, R. Fresenius, C. Neubauer; Würzburg: Scherer, v. Schwarzenbach
  3. United Kingdom. Dublin: Apjohn; Edinburgh: Al. Crum Brown, Wanklyn, F. Guthrie; Glasgow: Anderson; London: B. J. Duppa, G. C. Foster, Gladstone, Müller, Noad, A. Normandy, Odling; Manchester: Roscoe; Oxford: Daubeny, G. Griffeth, F. Schickendantz; Woolwich: Abel
  4. France. Montpellier: A. Béchamp, A. Gautier, C. G. Reichauer; Mülhousen i. E.: Th. Schneider; Nancy: J. Nicklès; Paris: Boussingault, Dumas, C. Friedel, L. Grandeau, Le Canu, Persoz, Alf. Riche, P. Thénard, Verdét, C.-A. Wurtz; Strasbourg i. E.: Jacquemin, Oppermann, F. Schlagdenhaussen, P. Schützenberger; Tann: Ch. Kestner, Scheurer-Kestner
  5. Italy. Genoa: Cannizzaro; Pavia: Pavesi.
  6. Mexico. Posselt
  7. Austria. Innsbruck: Hlasiwetz; Lemberg: Pebal; Pesth: Th. Wertheim; Vienna: V. v. Lang, A. Lieben, Folwarezny, F. Schneider
  8. Portugal. Coïmbra: Mide Carvalho
  9. Russia. Kharkov: Sawitsch; St. Petersburg: Borodin, Mendeleev, L. Schischkoff, Zinin;
  10. Poland. Warsaw: T. Lesinski, J. Natanson
  11. Sweden. Harpenden: J. H. Gilbert; Lund: Berlin, C. W. Blomstrand; Stockholm: Bahr
  12. Switzerland. Bern: C. Brunner, H. Schiff; Geneva: C. Marignac; Lausanne: Bischoff; Reichenau bei Chur: A. v. Planta; Zurich: J. Wislicenus
  13. Spain. Madrid: R. de Suna

For further reading

  • de Milt, Clara (1951). "The Congress at Karlsruhe". Journal of Chemical Education 28: 421 – 425. Retrieved on 2007-08-29.
  • Hartley, Harold (1966). "Stanislao Cannizzaro, F.R.S. (1826 – 1910) and the First International Chemical Conference at Karlsruhe". Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 21: 56 – 63.
  • Hudson, John (1992). The History of Chemistry. Chapman and Hall, 122 – 125. 
(Note the incorrect spelling of Weltzien's name.)
  • Ihde, Aaron J. (1984). The Development of Modern Chemistry. Dover, 228 – 230. 
(Originally published in 1964.)
  • Laing, Michael (November 1995). "The Karlsruhe Congress, 1860". Education in Chemistry: 151 – 153.
  • Partington, J. R. (1951). A Short History of Chemistry. MacMillan and Company, 256 – 258. 
(Note the incorrect month given for the conference.)
  • Nye, Mary Jo (1984). The Question of the Atom: From the Karlsruhe Congress to the First Solvay Conference, 1860-1911. Springer. ISBN 0938228072. 


  1. ^ Leicester, Henry M. (1956). The Historical Background of Chemistry. John Wiley and Sons, 191 – 192. 
  2. ^ Kekulé, A. (1861). Lehrbuch der Organischen Chemie. Verlag von Ferdinand Enke, 58. 
  3. ^ Moore, F. J. (1931). A History of Chemistry. McGraw-Hill, 182 – 1184.  (2nd edition)
  4. ^ Ihde, Aaron J. (1961). "The Karlsruhe Congress: A Centennial Retrospective". Journal of Chemical Education 38: 83 – 86. Retrieved on 2007-08-24.
  5. ^ See Charles-Adolphe Wurtz's report on the Karlsruhe Congress. Wurtz's list had "England" instead of "United Kingdom", and Warsaw was listed with Russia.
  • Cannizzaro's 1858 paper
  • A History of Chemistry by F. J. Moore (1918) New York: McGraw-Hill
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Karlsruhe_Congress". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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