Oxyhives ReviewOxyhives Resources

Science in Quotes: Nature’s Wisdom in Benzene and Honeycombs

 Science in Quotes: Nature’s Wisdom in Benzene and Honeycombs

People have wracked their brains for an explanation of benzene and how the celebrated man [Kekulé] managed to come up with the concept of the benzene theory. With regard to the last point especially, a friend of mine who is a farmer and has a lively interest in chemistry has asked me a question which I would like to share with you. my ‘agricultural friend’ apparently believes he has traced the origins of the benzene theory. ‘Has Kekulé,’ so ran the question, ‘once been a bee-keeper? You certainly know that bees too build hexagons; they know well that they can store the greatest amount of honey that way with the least amount of wax. I always liked it,’ my agricultural friend went on, ‘When I received a new issue of the Berichte; admittedly, I don’t read the articles, but I like the pictures very much. the patterns of benzene, naphthalene and especially anthracene are indeed wonderful. when I look at the pictures always have to think of the honeycombs of my bee hives.’”

—August Wilhelm von Hofmann, during an after-dinner speech at Kekulé Benzolfest in March 1890, as translated by W. H. Brock, O. Theodor Benfrey, and Susanne Stark in ‘Hofmann’s Benzene Tree at the Kekulé Festivities,’ published in the Journal of Chemical Education in 1991.

August Wilhelm von Hofmann (1818-1892) was an organic chemist.

He discovered the Hofmann rearrangement and Hofmann elimination, and was the first to synthesize quaternary amines and use molecular models to teach. 

Science in Quotes: Nature’s Wisdom in Benzene and Honeycombs

Recommended Reading