107 Years of Line-Formula Notations (1861-1968)

August 18, 2006

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Thus, within the short period of just seven years after the birth of structural chemistry in 1861, virtually all of the main ideas relating to line-formula descriptions were conceived and published. No basically new practices appeared for some 79 years. Then, within an identically brief period of just seven years (1947-1954), virtually all of the fundamental features of structure-delineating chemical notations appeared in the international chemical literature.

William J. Wiswesser J. Chem. Doc. 1968, 8, 146-150

Apparently, advances in chemical line notations have a history of occurring in clusters. Perhaps the development of InChI will spawn a renaissance in the development and use of line notations. Is there room (or need) for multiple line notation languages, each filling a particular niche, or can a universal line notation ever be developed? Will currently popular line notations such as SMILES and InChI seem as cumbersome in 30 years as Wiswesser Line Notation does today?