Baeyer Strain Theory said that using the formula

$\frac{(109^ \circ 28' - \alpha)}{2}$, where $\alpha$ is the angle between 2 sides of the cycloalkane, the most stable cycloalkane could be found. Thus he proved cyclopentane to be the most stable.

But later using the value of heat evolved during combustion, cyclohexane was found to be the most stable.

Then why was the Nobel Prize given to Baeyer for a faulty theory, still resides beside his name?

For a theory which no longer could explain the maximum stability of cyclohexane?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Are you asking why Nobel prizes aren't rescinded? Or is this a question about the theory itself? $\endgroup$ – orthocresol May 2 at 12:47
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Baeyer's Nobel was principally for his work on dyes. Windhaus received the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1928 for his work on sterols even though his proposed structure for cholesterol was shown to be incorrect a few years later. To my knowledge, the prize was not rescinded. $\endgroup$ – user55119 May 2 at 14:31
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Well, that's more of a question for the Nobel committee. Not for Stack Exchange. You can send them a message at nobelprize.org/contact $\endgroup$ – orthocresol May 2 at 14:50
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ That's not a question for this community. $\endgroup$ – DIVYANSH Verma May 2 at 16:15
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Instead of being critics to questions, answers are more welcome. And about the sarcasm, I think I found my answer already, thank you very much $\endgroup$ – Srutanik Bhaduri May 3 at 3:56

Scientists are human beings after all. Nobody gets a Nobel Prize for inventing a "formula". It is the idea that makes an impact and new ideas are respected. Scientists like normal human beings make honest mistakes, but try their best to be correct. The guy who got the Nobel Prize in polarography, Hervosky, in the 1950s made errors in other electrochemistry papers, does this mean the prize be snatched back from him as well? Max Planck when he derived his blackbody radiation law, he did not believe much in atomic/molecular theory (later on he changed his views). He also received a Nobel prize.

If you read the citation/biographer by the Nobel Prize committee, the award was not due to some cycloalkane strain angle but the prize motivation was "in recognition of his services in the advancement of organic chemistry and the chemical industry, through his work on organic dyes and hydroaromatic compounds."

The Nobel Prize clearly says "Von Baeyer’s work was at once pioneering and many-sided. With admirable penetration and extraordinary experimental skill he combined dogged perseverance and, even at 70 years old, a youthful buoyancy in his work. He was careful never to overestimate the value of a theory. While Kekulé sometimes approached Nature with preconceived opinions, von Baeyer would say: “I have never set up an experiment to see whether I was right, but to see how the materials behave”. Even in old age his views did not become fixed, and his mind remained open to new developments in chemical science." (https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/chemistry/1905/baeyer/biographical/)

You can see here, (good) scientists are open to change and are willing to listen to others. I found very good scientists to be very humble (with a small fraction of outliers), but only the mediocre ones are at times rigid and arrogant.

| improve this answer | |
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Nice response! I believe the "hydroaromatic compounds" part of the citation was tied to his strain theory. He assumed that the rings were all planar. He argued that, if van't Hoff and LeBel were correct about the tetrahedral carbon, then there should be two cyclohexane carboxylic acids, "equatorial" and "axial". On Neptune perhaps, not on Earth. $\endgroup$ – user55119 May 2 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, he did not deliver a Nobel Lecture, otherwise we could have verified the story behind hydroaromatic compounds. $\endgroup$ – M. Farooq May 2 at 16:33

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.