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New Insight into the “Fortuitous Error” that Led to the 2000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Seth C. Rasmussen

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND, US

Accepted: 2020-08-18 | Published Online: 2020-08-23 | DOI: 10.36253/Substantia-973


In 2000, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Hideki Shirakawa, Alan G. MacDiarmid, and Alan J. Heeger “for the discovery and development of electrically conductive polymers.” While this award was in reference to their collaborative efforts on conducting polyacetylene in the mid-to-late 1970s, the narrative leading up to these efforts began in 1967 with the production of polyacetylene plastic films via what has been called a "fortuitous error." At the heart of this discovery were Shirakawa and a visiting Korean scientist, Hyung Chick Pyun. The current report provides background on Pyun and, for the first time, presents his version of the events leading to the discovery of polyacetylene films in order to provide new insight into this important historical event.

History of Research on Antisense Oligonucleotide Analogs

Jack S. Cohen

Chemistry Department, Ben Gurion University, Be’er Sheva, Israel

Accepted: 2020-08-11 | Published Online: 2020-08-23 | DOI: 10.36253/Substantia-964


In the search for novel therapeutics, antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) analogs have been a major focus of research for over 40 years.  They use the antisense strategy, namely they have a nucleic acid base sequence that is complementary to a portion of a specific mRNA that is produced in the cell, or to a viral RNA, in order to selectively inhibit gene expression. Oligonucleotides need to be chemically modified to stabilize them against hydrolysis by endogenous nucleases. Until now several phosphorothioate (PS) oligonucleotide analogs have been approved by the FDA for human use. This article seeks to provide a history of this subject to date.

Thermodynamics of Life

Marc Henry

Laboratoire de Chimie Moléculaire de l'Etat Solide, UMR 7140, Université de Strasbourg, France

Accepted: 2020-08-26 | Published Online: 2020-08-26 | DOI: 10.36253/Substantia-959


Biology is currently plagued by several fossil concepts that may be responsible for the current stagnation in medicine. Through a careful screening of the origins of thermodynamics, such fossils concepts have been identified: assumption that heat is a form of energy, assimilation of entropy to disorder, assimilation of death to states of maximum entropy, assimilation of ATP to the energy currency of living cells, non-recognition of entropy as a state function of the whole universe, belief that free energies are another kind of energy, self-referencing in the definition of life, ignorance of basic principles of quantum physics and more particularly of the importance of intrinsic spin, confusion between three different forms of reversibility, non-recognition that irreversibility is at the heart of living systems. After stowing of these concepts in the cabinet of useless and nasty notions, a fresh new look is proposed showing how life is deep-rooted trough the entropy concept in quantum physics on the one hand and in cosmology on the other hand. This suggests that life is not an emergent property of matter, but rather that it has always been a fundamental property of a universe filled with particles and fields. It is further proposed to dismiss the first (energy = heat + work) and third laws (entropy decreases to zero at zero Kelvin) of thermodynamics, retaining only the clear Boltzmann's definition of entropy in terms of multiplicity of microstates Ω, S = kB×Ln Ω, and the second law in its most general form applicable to any kind of macrostates: ∆Suniv ≥ 0. On this ground, clear definitions are proposed for life/death, healthiness/illness and for thermodynamic coupling. The whole unfolding of life in the universe: Big Bang → Light → Hydrogen → Stars → Atoms → Water → Planets → Metabolism → Lipids → RNA's → Viruses → Ribosome → Proteins → Bacteria → Eukaryote → Sex → Plants → Animals → Humans → Computers → Internet, may then be interpreted as a simple consequence of a single principle: ∆Suniv ≥ 0. We thus strongly urge biologists and physicians to change and adapt their ideas and vocabulary to the proposed reformulation for a better understanding of what is life and as a consequence for better health for living beings.

Capillary electrophores is and its basic principles in historical retrospect - 1 The early decades of the “Long Nineteenth Century”: The Voltaic pile, and the discovery of electrolysis, electrophoresis and electroosmosis

Ernst Kenndler,* Marek Minárik

Institute for Analytical Chemistry, Faculty of Chemistry, University of Vienna, Währigerstrasse 38, A 1090, Vienna, Austria

Accepted: 2020-08-30 | Published Online: 2020-08-31 | DOI: 10.36253/Substantia-1018


Here we set forth the first from a series of reports devoted to the history of capillary electrophoresis. In this opening part, we go more than two centuries back in time and revisit original discoveries of electrolysis, electrophoresis and electroosmosis. We emphasize the essential role of a brilliant invention of 1799 by Alessandro Volta, the Voltaic pile, basically the first battery delivering a constant-flow electricity, which has made all the scientific advances in the subsequent years and decades possible. We describe the experiments of William Nicholson and Anthony Carlisle revealing electrolytic decomposition of river water followed by enlightened investigations by Nicolas Gautherot, Ferdinand Frédéric Reuss and Robert Porrett that each independently and unaware of the works of the other uncovered the phenomena of electrophoresis and electroosmosis. We give not only a technical description and a chronological overview of the inventive experiments, but offer also some formidable details as well as circumstances surrounding some of the initial inventors and their observations. We conclude this time period, for which we coin the term "1st epoch of electrophoresis", with the same year 1914 as the astonishingly coincident period of the European history between the French revolution in 1789 and the begin of the First World War, termed the “Long 19th Century” by the British historian Eric Hobsbawm. We accentuate the surprising fact that over this entire cycle of 125 years no attempts were taken to utilize the findings and newly acquired knowledge to perform an electric driven separation of compounds from a mixture. In the field of electrophoresis and electroosmosis, it is rather the epoch of pure than of applied science.

Udagawa Youan (1798-1846), Pioneer of Chemistry Studies in Japan from Western Sources and his Successors

Yona Siderer

Edelstein Center for the History and Philosophy of Science, Technology and Medicine, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Accepted: 2020-09-14 | Published Online: 2020-09-14 | DOI: 10.36253/Substantia-963


This work presents chemistry studies of the Japanese scholar Udagawa Youan (1798-1846), specifically, his pioneering book Seimi Kaiso, introduction to Chemistry, and includes a short biography of Youan. The first aim of this work is to present Youan's contribution to Western chemistry in Japan. Youan studied many Western books and listed their authors. The new terms he invented for chemistry in Japanese influenced the development of chemistry writing and application in Japan. The seven books of Seimi Kaiso that were published during 1837-1847 and republished with annotation in Japanese in 1975 are discussed in this article.

The impact of Youan' terminology on the history chemistry writing in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is discussed.  The conditions of knowledge transfer among Japanese and Western scholars were very different. Youan had severe difficulties facing the strict attitude of the Tokugawa authorities toward studying and distributing knowledge coming from foreign countries.  The later development of Japanese chemistry language and studies is also described.