Josef Houben and Theodor Weylzoom
Below is a featured article detailing the lives of Theodor Weyl and Josef Houben written and compiled by Professor Henning Hopf from the Technical University of Braunschweig and Dr. Fiona Shortt de Hernandez, Managing Editor Science of Synthesis, Georg Thieme Verlag KG
Theodor Weyl and Josef Houben were two German chemists who made a significant contribution to the field of chemical information at the beginning of the 20th century. They were the first to comprehensively evaluate the organic chemistry literature with regard to its practical usability. In their handbook, Methods of Organic Chemistry, experts illustrated various methods for the synthesis of organic compounds and discussed them critically. This meant that the reader did not always have to consult other chemistry handbooks and even the original literature for the planning of syntheses anymore, thus saving valuable time. The editorial concept not only included extensive literature studies and the careful evaluation of preparative methods, but it even incorporated further information relating to the context which helped the reader determine the general applicability of a particular synthetic method. In this way, readers were inspired and their scope for creativity was enhanced. Houben and Weyl were also pioneers in the presentation of organic synthetic information through the introduction of a highly organized hierarchical structure system which enabled the reader to navigate through the content easily.
Even 100 years after its first publication, Houben–Weyl, which nowadays is available in an electronic format as part of Science of Synthesis, is still appreciated by chemists worldwide as an excellently structured, reliable and comprehensive source of information.
However, the two patrons behind the mark of quality which is Houben–Weyl have been largely forgotten and their biographies are largely unknown.The 100-year anniversary of the first Houben–Weyl edition published by Thieme in Leipzig in 1909 provides us with an excellent opportunity to have a look at the lives of these two chemists.
To read the entire article which is available as a PDF (814 kB), please download 100 Years Weyl, Houben and their Handbook.
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