racemic acid

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  • noun

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the optically inactive form of tartaric acid that is often found in grape juice

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Pasteur hypothesized that the optical activity of tartaric acid was related to its asymmetry, which prompted him to think that racemic acid lacked optical activity because its asymmetric crystals were equal but opposite, thereby canceling one another's light-rotating effects.
Pasteur traveled to Biot's laboratory and repeated his experiment, once again carefully separating the crystals of racemic acid, allowing Biot to double-check every measurement and procedure.
Pasteur sought the answer to this question by going to the only known source of racemic acid at the time--Kestner, the industrialist in whose factory racemic acid had been discovered.
Pasteur outright rejected this notion, writing that "[t]here is no such thing as a special category of science called applied science; there is science and there are its applications, which are related to one another as the fruit is related to the tree which has borne it." (9) Pasteur was a great supporter of industry, and he routinely showed this support in his manuscripts on molecular asymmetry, never failing to give credit to Kestner and Fikentscher, the industrialists who had aided him in procuring samples of racemic acid.