Chemical Bond - History


Early speculations into the nature of the chemical bond, from as early as the 12th century, supposed that certain types of chemical species were joined by a type of chemical affinity. In 1704, Isaac Newton famously outlined his atomic bonding theory, in "Query 31" of his Opticks, whereby atoms attach to each other by some "force". Specifically, after acknowledging the various popular theories in vogue at the time, of how atoms were reasoned to attach to each other, i.e. "hooked atoms", "glued together by rest", or "stuck together by conspiring motions", Newton states that he would rather infer from their cohesion, that "particles attract one another by some force, which in immediate contact is exceedingly strong, at small distances performs the chemical operations, and reaches not far from the particles with any sensible effect."

In 1819, on the heels of the invention of the voltaic pile, Jöns Jakob Berzelius developed a theory of chemical combination stressing the electronegative and electropositive character of the combining atoms. By the mid 19th century, Edward Frankland, F.A. Kekulé, A.S. Couper, A.M. Butlerov, and Hermann Kolbe, building on the theory of radicals, developed the theory of valency, originally called "combining power", in which compounds were joined owing to an attraction of positive and negative poles. In 1916, chemist Gilbert N. Lewis developed the concept of the electron-pair bond, in which two atoms may share one to six electrons, thus forming the single electron bond, a single bond, a double bond, or a triple bond; in Lewis's own words, "An electron may form a part of the shell of two different atoms and cannot be said to belong to either one exclusively."

That same year, Walther Kossel put forward a theory similar to Lewis' only his model assumed complete transfers of electrons between atoms, and was thus a model of ionic bonds. Both Lewis and Kossel structured their bonding models on that of Abegg's rule (1904).

In 1927, the first mathematically complete quantum description of a simple chemical bond, i.e. that produced by one electron in the hydrogen molecular ion, H2+, was derived by the Danish physicist Oyvind Burrau. This work showed that the quantum approach to chemical bonds could be fundamentally and quantitatively correct, but the mathematical methods used could not be extended to molecules containing more than one electron. A more practical, albeit less quantitative, approach was put forward in the same year by Walter Heitler and Fritz London. The Heitler-London method forms the basis of what is now called valence bond theory. In 1929, the linear combination of atomic orbitals molecular orbital method (LCAO) approximation was introduced by Sir John Lennard-Jones, who also suggested methods to derive electronic structures of molecules of F2 (fluorine) and O2 (oxygen) molecules, from basic quantum principles. This molecular orbital theory represented a covalent bond as an orbital formed by combining the quantum mechanical Schrödinger atomic orbitals which had been hypothesized for electrons in single atoms. The equations for bonding electrons in multi-electron atoms could not be solved to mathematical perfection (i.e., analytically), but approximations for them still gave many good qualitative predictions and results. Most quantitative calculations in modern quantum chemistry use either valence bond or molecular orbital theory as a starting point, although a third approach, Density Functional Theory, has become increasingly popular in recent years.

In 1933, H. H. James and A. S. Coolidge carried out a calculation on the dihydrogen molecule that, unlike all previous calculation which used functions only of the distance of the electron from the atomic nucleus, used functions which also explicitly added the distance between the two electrons. With up to 13 adjustable parameters they obtained a result very close to the experimental result for the dissociation energy. Later extensions have used up to 54 parameters and give excellent agreement with experiment. This calculation convinced the scientific community that quantum theory could give agreement with experiment. However this approach has none of the physical pictures of the valence bond and molecular orbital theories and is difficult to extend to larger molecules.

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