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Creative Cognitive Processes in Kekulé's Discovery of the Structure of the Benzene Molecule

Albert Rothenberg
The American Journal of Psychology
Vol. 108, No. 3 (Autumn, 1995), pp. 419-438
DOI: 10.2307/1422898
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1422898
Page Count: 20
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Creative Cognitive Processes in Kekulé's Discovery of the Structure of the Benzene Molecule
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Abstract

August Kekulé's account of his discovery of the ring or hexagonal structure of the benzene molecule--the event that ushered in the science of organic chemistry--is the single most cited personal report in psychological writings on creativity. Although his mental state has been depicted as dreaming, visual hallucination, alcoholic stupor, or hypnagogic imagery, such depictions do not cite Kekulé's original German account but rely either on secondary sources or an 1898 English translation by F. R. Japp in the "Journal of the Chemical Society." Kekulé's original account is presented together with the results of three new translations by German language experts. Comparative analysis of all translations indicates omissions in the one by Japp and significant differences. Psychological assessment indicates that Kekulé's breakthrough was due to specific forms of primarily conscious creative cognition named homospatial and janusian processes.

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