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Diatomic carbon (C2) is historically an elusive chemical species. It has long been believed that the generation of C2 requires extremely high “physical” energy, such as an electric carbon arc or multiple photon excitation, and so it has been the general consensus that the inherent nature of C2 in the ground state is experimentally inaccessible. Here, we present the first “chemical” synthesis of C2 in a flask at room temperature or below, providing the first experimental evidence to support theoretical predictions that (1) C2 has a singlet biradical character with a quadruple bond, thus settling a long-standing controversy between experimental and theoretical chemists, and that (2) C2 serves as a molecular element in the formation of sp2-carbon allotropes such as graphite, carbon nanotubes and C60.