Polymers are substances made up of recurring structural units, each of which can be regarded as derived from a specific compound called a monomer. The number of monomeric units usually is large and variable, each sample of a given polymer being characteristically a mixture of molecules with different molecular weights. The range of molecular weights is sometimes quite narrow, but is more often very broad. The concept of polymers being mixtures of molecules with long chains of atoms connected to one another seems simple and logical today, but was not accepted until the 1930's when the results of the extensive work of H. Staudinger, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1953, finally became appreciated. Prior to Staudinger's work, polymers were believed to be colloidal aggregates of small molecules with quite nonspecific chemical structures.
Thumbnail: Polyethylene terephthalate polymer chain. Image used with permission (Public Domain; Jynto).
- John D. Robert and Marjorie C. Caserio (1977) Basic Principles of Organic Chemistry, second edition. W. A. Benjamin, Inc. , Menlo Park, CA. ISBN 0-8053-8329-8. This content is copyrighted under the following conditions, "You are granted permission for individual, educational, research and non-commercial reproduction, distribution, display and performance of this work in any format."