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A Vital Force

A single experiment in 1828 destroyed the theory of Vitalism which held that “organic substances” found in living systems could not be made in the laboratory because they were empowered with a “vital force” that could not be duplicated. Chemistry professor Friedrich Wohler heated ammonium cyanate, a compound that was clearly “inorganic” since it came from a mineral source and converted it to urea, clearly “organic” since it could be isolated from urine. This showed that there was no vital force in organic compounds and that they were amenable to laboratory synthesis. The way was now open for the synthesis of numerous biomolecules.

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