/rad"i keuhl/, adj.
1. of or going to the root or origin; fundamental: a radical difference.
2. thoroughgoing or extreme, esp. as regards change from accepted or traditional forms: a radical change in the policy of a company.
3. favoring drastic political, economic, or social reforms: radical ideas; radical and anarchistic ideologues.
4. forming a basis or foundation.
5. existing inherently in a thing or person: radical defects of character.
6. Math.
a. pertaining to or forming a root.
b. denoting or pertaining to the radical sign.
c. irrational (def. 5b).
7. Gram. of or pertaining to a root.
8. Bot. of or arising from the root or the base of the stem.
9. a person who holds or follows strong convictions or extreme principles; extremist.
10. a person who advocates fundamental political, economic, and social reforms by direct and often uncompromising methods.
11. Math.
a. a quantity expressed as a root of another quantity.
b. the set of elements of a ring, some power of which is contained in a given ideal.
c. See radical sign.
12. Chem.
a. group (def. 3).
b. See free radical.
13. Gram. root (def. 11).
14. (in Chinese writing) one of 214 ideographic elements used in combination with phonetics to form thousands of different characters.
[1350-1400; ME < LL radicalis having roots, equiv. to L radic- (s. of radix) ROOT1 + -alis -AL1]
Syn. 1. basic, essential; original, innate, ingrained. 2. complete, unqualified, thorough; drastic, excessive, immoderate, violent. RADICAL, EXTREME, FANATICAL denote that which goes beyond moderation or even to excess in opinion, belief, action, etc. RADICAL emphasizes the idea of going to the root of a matter, and this often seems immoderate in its thoroughness or completeness: radical ideas; radical changes or reforms. EXTREME applies to excessively biased ideas, intemperate conduct, or repressive legislation: to use extreme measures.
FANATICAL is applied to a person who has extravagant views, esp. in matters of religion or morality, which render that person incapable of sound judgments; and excessive zeal which leads him or her to take violent action against those who have differing views: fanatical in persecuting others.
Ant. 1, 2. superficial.

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In politics, one who desires extreme change of part or all of the social order.

The term (which derives from the Latin word for "root," and thus implies change beginning at a system's roots) was given this sense by Charles James Fox in 1797 when he demanded "radical reform" consisting of universal manhood suffrage. In France before 1848, republicans and advocates of universal male suffrage were called radicals. The term was later applied to Marxists (see Marxism) who called for fundamental social change to eradicate divisions among social classes. In popular usage, it is applied to political extremism, not necessarily violent, of both the left and the right.
Term used in chemistry with one predominant and two subsidiary, looser meanings.

It most often refers to a free radical. It can also mean an ion or a functional group.
(as used in expressions)
Radical Socialist Party

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also called  Free Radical,  

      in chemistry, molecule that contains at least one unpaired electron. Most molecules contain even numbers of electrons, and the covalent chemical bonds holding the atoms together within a molecule normally consist of pairs of electrons jointly shared by the atoms linked by the bond. Most radicals may be considered to have arisen by cleavage of normal electron-pair bonds, every cleavage having produced two separate entities, each of which contains a single, unpaired electron from the broken bond (in addition to all the rest of the normal, paired electrons of the atoms).

      Although free radicals contain unpaired electrons, they may be electrically neutral. Because of their odd electrons, free radicals are usually highly reactive. They combine with one another, or with single atoms that also carry free electrons, to give ordinary molecules, all of whose electrons are paired; or they react with intact molecules, abstracting parts of the molecules to complete their own electron pairs and generating new free radicals in the process. In all these reactions, each simple free radical, because of its single unpaired electron, is able to combine with one other radical or atom containing a single unpaired electron. Under special circumstances, diradicals can be formed with unpaired electrons on each of two atoms (giving an overall even number of electrons), and these diradicals have a combining power of two.

      Certain free radicals are stabilized by their peculiar structures; they exist for appreciable lengths of time, given the right conditions. Most free radicals, however, including such simple ones as the methyl (·CH3) and ethyl (·C2H5) radicals, are capable of only the most fleeting independent existence.

Stable radicals.
      The first relatively stable free radical, triphenylmethyl (structure I), was discovered by Moses Gomberg in 1900. In this compound the central carbon

      is trivalent since it is combined with three substituents instead of four, and its unshared electron is represented by a dot. Free radicals of the triphenylmethyl type are stable only in certain organic solvents; they are rapidly destroyed by irreversible reactions in the presence of air, water, or strong acids.

      In a manner analogous to the above, free radicals are formed by the breaking of the nitrogen–nitrogen bond in aromatic hydrazines of the general structure R2N−NR2, or of the central nitrogen–nitrogen bond in aromatic tetrazanes, R2N−RN−NR−NR2. Thus, the radical 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (structure II) exists as a stable violet solid. Similar examples of free radicals, in which, however, the odd electron is on oxygen, are also known—e.g., the 2,4,6-tri-tert-butylphenoxy radical (structure III).

Still another type of stable radical ion, a metal ketyl, forms when a substance such as benzophenone,

      is treated with metallic sodium to give the coloured substance (C6H5)2C−O-. Similarly, sodium reacts with complex aromatic hydrocarbons such as naphthalene, converting them to highly coloured radical ions.

      A final class of relatively stable organic free radicals are those containing the group > NO. An example is diphenylnitrogen oxide, (C6H5)2NO, which is obtained by the oxidation of diphenylhydroxylamine, (C6H5)2NOH.

      Certain structural features appear to be required for the existence of stable free radicals. One condition of particular importance is shown by the semiquinone radical ion IV. As depicted, the upper oxygen atom has a negative charge and the lower one an odd electron. This assignment is arbitrary,

however, and the same molecule would be represented if the charge and the odd electron were interchanged. When such a situation is encountered, the actual average distribution of electrons within the molecule is presumed not to be that of either of the structures just described but to be intermediate between the two. This circumstance is called delocalization, or resonance (resonance, theory of); according to quantum mechanics, the resonance considerably increases the stability of the substance and, as in this case, the probability of its existence. Similar arguments account for the stability of the other free radicals discussed earlier.

Unstable radicals
      Simple free radicals such as methyl, ·CH3, also exist and play key roles as transient intermediates in many chemical reactions. The existence of the methyl radical was first demonstrated by Friedrich A. Paneth (Paneth, Friedrich Adolf) and W. Hofeditz in 1929 by the following experiment. The vapours of tetramethyllead, Pb(CH3)4, mixed with gaseous hydrogen, H2, were passed through a silica tube at low pressure. When a portion of the tube was heated to about 800° C, the tetramethyllead was decomposed and a mirror of metallic lead deposited on the internal surface of the tube. The gaseous products of the decomposition were found capable of causing the disappearance of a second lead mirror, deposited at a more distant cool point in the tube. Since none of the recognized stable products of the decomposition was able similarly to dissolve a lead mirror, the inference was drawn that methyl radicals formed in the high-temperature decomposition reacted with lead at the cool mirror to regenerate tetramethyllead. Methyl radicals obtained in this way proved to be highly reactive and short-lived. They not only reacted with lead and other metals but also disappeared rapidly and spontaneously, largely by dimerization to ethane, H3C−CH3. Techniques for producing reactive free radicals in the gas phase have been greatly extended by subsequent research. It has been found that various unstable species, such as ethyl, (·C2H5), propyl, (·C3H7), and hydroxyl, (·OH), can be obtained by several methods including: (1) photochemical decomposition of a variety of organic and inorganic materials, (2) reaction between sodium vapour and an alkyl halide, and (3) discharge of electricity through a gas at low pressure. Atoms that arise from dissociation of a diatomic molecule (e.g., the chlorine atom, ·Cl, from the dissociation of the chlorine molecule, Cl2) can also be obtained and have the properties of short-lived radicals of this type.

      The existence of the various known unstable free radicals is most commonly demonstrated by the reactions that they undergo. Thus, ethyl radicals, formed from tetraethyllead, Pb(C2H5)4, dissolve zinc and antimony mirrors. The resulting ethyl derivatives of zinc and antimony, Zn(C2H5)2 and Sb(C2H5)3, have been isolated and chemically identified. In a few instances, unstable radicals also have been identified spectroscopically. Here the important technique of flash photolysis, the use of a single, intense flash of light to produce a momentary high concentration of free radicals, is used.

      Transient, unstable free radicals also may be produced in solution by several means. A number of molecules, of which organic peroxides are typical, possess such weak chemical bonds that they decompose irreversibly into free radicals on warming in solution. Diacetyl peroxide, for example,

is considered to decompose, at least in large part, into carbon dioxide, CO2, and methyl radicals. These, in turn, rapidly attack most organic solvents, often by abstracting hydrogen to given methane, CH4, together with other products. Irradiation of solutions of many organic substances with ultraviolet light leads to the absorption of sufficient energy to disrupt chemical bonds and produce free radicals, and, in fact, most photochemical processes are at present thought to involve free-radical intermediates. The chemical changes that occur when solutions (and also gases) are exposed to high-energy radiation also appear to involve the transient formation of free radicals.

      It is generally considered that free radicals are transient intermediates in many high-temperature reactions (such as combustion and the thermal cracking of hydrocarbons), in many photochemical processes, and in a number of other important reactions in organic chemistry, although the concentrations of the free radical intermediates are in general too low for direct detection. One class of free-radical reaction is of particular importance and is illustrated by the following example. Methane, CH4, reacts with chlorine, Cl2, by an overall process that gives chloromethane, CH3Cl, and hydrogen chloride, HCl. The reaction is enormously accelerated by light and apparently involves the following steps:

Chlorine atoms are produced in (1) and destroyed in (4), while the products that are actually isolated arise from (2) and (3). Since chlorine atoms consumed in (2) are regenerated in (3), a single atom of chlorine can lead to the production of many molecules of chloromethane. Such processes, in which an intermediate is continually regenerated, are known as chain reactions (chain reaction), and their study constitutes an important branch of chemical kinetics. Similar chains involving transient free radicals are involved in the halogenation of many other organic molecules, in many of the polymerization reactions that are employed in the manufacture of plastics and synthetic rubber, and in the reaction of molecular oxygen, O2, with a great number of organic molecules.

Magnetic properties of free radicals.
      The magnetic properties of free radicals provide a powerful tool for their detection and study. Molecules with even numbers of paired electrons are diamagnetic; i.e., they are slightly repelled by a magnet. Free radicals, however, are paramagnetic (attracted by a magnet) because of the spin of the odd electron, the spins of the remaining paired electrons effectively canceling each other. The magnetic property of a substance most commonly studied is its magnetic susceptibility, effectively its behaviour in an inhomogeneous magnetic field, and the extent of paramagnetism of the substance is described in terms of its magnetic dipole moment. The magnitude of this dipole moment, which is the same for all free radicals containing single electrons, can be calculated, and the value obtained (1.73 Bohr magnetons) has been confirmed experimentally with free radicals in the solid state or at known concentrations in solution. Magnetic susceptibility measurements may be used to demonstrate the existence of free radicals and to measure the position of equilibrium between radicals and their dimers or disproportionation products. Diradicals, with even numbers of electrons, two of which, however, are not paired, are also paramagnetic, the oxygen molecule, O2, being probably the simplest example of the kind.

      The electron paramagnetic-resonance spectra of free radicals provide another technique for their detection and study. According to quantum mechanics, the spin of the odd electron of a free radical, when placed in a magnetic field, may have two, and only two, orientations, one with and the other against the field. These two orientations differ slightly in energy by an amount proportional to the strength of the magnetic field, and the majority of the electrons have the orientation of lower energy. If a system containing free radicals is placed in a magnetic field and exposed to electromagnetic radiation (e.g., in the region of very short radio waves), molecules with the lower energy orientation absorb radiation of a frequency corresponding to an energy just sufficient to flip the odd electron into its higher energy state. This phenomenon gives rise in the simplest case to a paramagnetic-resonance absorption spectrum consisting of a single sharp absorption line. The technique is sensitive and will detect extremely small concentrations of free radicals, as little as one part in 107 having been reported detected. In many organic free radicals, interaction of the odd electron with the magnetic moments of the nuclei of different atoms in the molecule (most commonly with hydrogen nuclei) gives rise to a more complicated system of energy levels and an absorption spectrum consisting of a series of lines. The nature of the spectrum permits the identification of particular free radicals and also gives information about their electronic structure.

Cheves T. Walling Ed.

      in politics, one who desires extreme change of part or all of the social order. The word was first used in a political sense in England, and its introduction is generally ascribed to Charles James Fox (Fox, Charles James), who in 1797 declared for a “radical reform” consisting of a drastic expansion of the franchise to the point of universal manhood suffrage. The term radical thereafter began to be used as a general term covering all those who supported the movement for parliamentary reform (Reform Bill). After the passage of the Reform Act of 1832, which extended the suffrage only to part of the middle class, a group of Radicals allied with the Whig (Whig and Tory) faction in Parliament continued to press for an extension of the vote to include even the working class. When the Reform Act of 1867 further widened suffrage, the Radicals, notably in London and Birmingham, took the lead in organizing the new voters, helping to transform the Whig parliamentary faction into the Liberal Party of the later Victorian era. Because of their efforts on behalf of the working-class vote, the Radicals earned the loyalty of the trade unions; from 1874 to 1892 every trade unionist who sat in Parliament regarded himself as a Radical.

      In France before 1848 the term radical designated a republican or supporter of universal manhood suffrage; open advocacy of republicanism being technically illegal, republicans usually called themselves radicals. After 1869 a self-styled Radical faction led by Georges Clemenceau began to drift away from the moderate democratic-republicanism of Léon Gambetta. These Radicals deemed themselves the true heirs of the French Revolutionary tradition. In 1881 at Montmartre they adopted a platform calling for broad social reforms, and at the turn of the century the Radical-Socialist Party was formed.

      The English Radicals of the 19th century were influenced by philosophical ideas assuming that men are able to control their social environment by collective action, a position held by the so-called philosophical radicals. Because these assumptions also underlay Marxist theories of social reform, the label radical in time was affixed to Marxists and other advocates of violent social change, thus becoming inapplicable to the gradualist reformers.

      In the United States, although the term is usually one of opprobrium, this was not always true in the post-Depression years of the 1930s; and it is generally not true in less stable Third World societies. In popular American usage, radicalism stands for political extremism of any variety, of the left or right; Communism serves as an example of the former, Fascism of the latter. The term has more commonly been applied to the left, but the expression “the radical right” came to be used commonly in the United States. Various youth movements in the United States, widely labeled as radical, were associated with denunciation of traditional social and political values.

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Universalium. 2010.