The Beginnings of Organic Photochemistry

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

119 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although sunlight induced photochemistry must have occurred on the planet Earth for billions of years, the chemical changes caused by light have attracted systematic scientific scrutiny only relatively recently. How did scientists first conceive the idea that the interaction of materials with light could not only cause physical phenomena, but could also alter their chemical nature? When sunlight began to be employed as a heat source for distillation, the eventual discovery of photochemical reactions was assured. One can envision three types of changes that would have aroused the curiosity of laboratory chemists: color changes; the evolution of gas bubbles (oxygen in photosynthesis); and the precipitation of a photoproduct less soluble than its precursor. Less predictable was the observation that sunlight caused crystalline santonin to burst because it is converted into a product with a different crystal lattice. In the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a variety of photochemical reactions, some observed by chance, others uncovered in carefully planned studies, ultimately led to a major systematic investigation that established photochemistry as a viable branch of chemistry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1193-1207
Number of pages15
JournalAngewandte Chemie International Edition in English
Volume28
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1989

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Photochemical reactions
Santonin
Photosynthesis
Planets
Crystal lattices
Distillation
Gases
Earth (planet)
Oxygen
Crystalline materials
Color

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Catalysis

Keywords

  • History of chemistry
  • Photochemistry

Cite this

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abstract = "Although sunlight induced photochemistry must have occurred on the planet Earth for billions of years, the chemical changes caused by light have attracted systematic scientific scrutiny only relatively recently. How did scientists first conceive the idea that the interaction of materials with light could not only cause physical phenomena, but could also alter their chemical nature? When sunlight began to be employed as a heat source for distillation, the eventual discovery of photochemical reactions was assured. One can envision three types of changes that would have aroused the curiosity of laboratory chemists: color changes; the evolution of gas bubbles (oxygen in photosynthesis); and the precipitation of a photoproduct less soluble than its precursor. Less predictable was the observation that sunlight caused crystalline santonin to burst because it is converted into a product with a different crystal lattice. In the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a variety of photochemical reactions, some observed by chance, others uncovered in carefully planned studies, ultimately led to a major systematic investigation that established photochemistry as a viable branch of chemistry.",
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The Beginnings of Organic Photochemistry. / Roth, Heinz.

In: Angewandte Chemie International Edition in English, Vol. 28, No. 9, 01.01.1989, p. 1193-1207.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

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