19th century

19th Century

  • Arrhenius, Svante August (1859-1927)
    Born: Wik near Uppsala (Sweden), 19 February 1859 Died: Stockholm (Sweden), 2 October 1927
  • Arrhenius was a brilliant student who learned to read at the age of three and graduated from secondary school as the youngest and brightest in his class. University studies in chemistry, physics and mathematics then followed in Uppsala where he also received his doctoral degree in 1884. His thesis on the galvanic conduction of electrolytes marked a breakthrough in chemistry because it explained the conductivity of the electrolytes by dissociation into positive and negative ions. This revolutionary theory was met with much opposition but became gradually accepted. The early proponents of the theory were W. Ostwald and J.H. vant Hoff who together with Arrhenius are considered as founders of modern physical chemistry. Arrhenius was rewarded in 1903 with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

    In 1891 Arrhenius moved to the newly founded University of Stockholm where four years later his post was converted to a professorship in physics. In 1905 Arrhenius was appointed director of the Nobel Institute for Physical Chemistry in Stockholm. During his later years Arrhenius became increasingly interested in cosmic physics and the origin of life on earth. He suggested that life had begun when living spores had wandered through the empty space to earth. He was also one of the first scientists to study the influence of carbon dioxide on the earth’s temperature, which is now known as the “greenhouse effect”.

  • Auer, Karl (1858-1929)
    Born: Vienna (Austria), 1858 Died: Welsbach Castle (Carinthia), 1929
  • Auer studied in Heidelberg under Bunsen. There he grew interested in rare earths. He isolated praseodymium and neodymium. In 1885 he patented a new method of gas lighting, he improved Edison’s lamp by introducing a metallic filament and finally he found a new metallic mixture to produce sparks, its most common use is as flints in cigarette lighters.
  • Avogadro, Amedeo (1776-1856)
    Born: Turin (Italy), 1776 Died: Turin (Italy), 1856
  • Avogadro studied law (1796) before turning to science. He became professor of physics at the University of Turin. In 1811 he proposed his famous hypothesis that all gases (at a given temperature) contain the same number of particles per unit volume. He specified that particles needed not to be individual atoms, but might be combinations of atoms (molecules). He was the first to distinguish between atoms and molecules in this way.
  • Baeyer, Johan Friedrich Wilhelm Adolf (1835-1917)
    Born: Berlin (Germany), 1835 Died: Starnberg near München (Germany), 1917
  • Baeyer studied under Robert Bunsen and August Kekulé, and in 1873 became successor of Justus Liebig in München. Baeyer did fundamental research on uric acid, indigo, phthaleine derivatives, terpenes, peroxides andacetylene etc. He is also known for his theory of tension (Spannungstheorie) of ring molecules. In 1905 he was awarded the Nobel prize for chemistry.
  • Berthelot, Pierre Eugène Marcelin (1827-1907)
    Born: Paris (France), 1827 Died: Paris (France), 1907
  • After studying under Antoine Jérôme Balard he became professor in 1859, since 1865 he taught at the Collège de France. In 1886/87 Berthelot was Minister of Education, in 1895/96 Foreign Minister. He published many papers on thermochemistry, organic syntheses (sugars, terpenes, glycerides, fats and many others), and the history of alchemy. As one of the foremost chemists of the late 19th century he was much honoured during and after his lifetime.
  • Berzelius, Jöns Jakob (1779-1848)
    Born: Väversunda Sörgård (Sweden), 20 August 1779 Died: Stockholm (Sweden), 7 August 1848
  • Berzelius lost both his parents in his childhood but nevertheless received good secondary education in Linköping and was able to enrol in 1796 at the University of Uppsala to study medicine. During medical studies he was taught chemistry by A.G. Ekeberg, the discoverer of tantalum.

    His first publication in 1800 dealt with the analysis of Medevi spa water but his doctoral thesis two years later was of medical nature discussing the effects of galvanotherapy. Berzelius preferred chemistry to medicine but had to first serve as regional physician near Stockholm before the wealthy mine-owner W. Hisinger provided him with laboratory facilities in Stockholm. The collaboration with Hisinger lead to the discovery of a new element, cerium, in 1803 and helped him to obtain a professorship of chemistry at the Royal Carolinian Medico-Surgical Institute. He gave up this post after being elected secretary of the Royal Academy of Sciences.

    The research of Berzelius was characterised by systematic diligence, chemical instinct and experimental precision unparalleled by other 19th century researchers. Besides cerium, several other elements (selenium, silicon, thorium) were discovered by him and the present chemical symbols were suggested by him. His determination of accurate atomic weights based on thousands of analyses allowed the composition of chemical compounds to be ascertained and corroborated the law of definite proportions. The early experiments with electricity and electrolysis lead Berzelius to develop the dualistic theory of bonding which could be successfully applied to inorganic compounds but not to organic ones.

    Berzelius was also a prolific writer whose Textbook of Chemistry ran through several editions and was translated into five languages. Even more influential was the series of Annual Reports written by Berzelius from 1821 until his death. In these reports, which year by year grew in size, Berzelius summarised the most important achievements of the previous year and gave his judgement. Often he gave an explanation and coined a name for a new phenomenon such as catalysis and polymerisation. Berzelius was undoubtedly the leading chemical authority in Europe during the first half of the 19th century. His influence was further strengthened by extensive correspondence and through students which included among others F. Wöhler, E. Mitscherlich and the Rose brothers.

  • Bunsen, Robert Wilhelm Eberhard (1811-1899)
    Born: Göttingen (Germany), 1811 Died: Heidelberg (Germany) 1899
  • As successor of Friedrich Wöhler in 1836 Bunsen became teacher at a technical high school in Kassel, later professor in Marburg, Breslau (Wroclaw), and Heidelberg. His work covered research on cacodyl compounds, analysis of blast furnace gases, iodometry, isolation of Magnesium, Calcium, Lithium, and Aluminium with a zinc-carbon battery (Bunsen-Element). He also invented the hydrojet pump, a new photometre, a new valve, and the Bunsen burner. Together with Gustav Kirchhoff he developed spectral analysis and discovered the elements Rubidium and Caesium.
  • Butlerov, Alexander Mikhailovich (1828-1886)
    Born: Tschistopol near Kazan (Russia), 1828 Died: Biarritz (France), 1886
  • Butlerov was professor in Kazan (1857) and St. Petersburg (1868). He was one of the foremost theorists of structural chemistry which lead him to do research in isomers. He also studied polymerisation reactions and synthesised the first artificial sugar, a mixture of hexoses.
  • Cannizzaro, Stanislao (1826-1910)
    Born: Palermo (Italy), 1826 Died: Rome (Italy), 1910
  • Cannizzaro was professor of physics and chemistry in Alessandria (1851), he was later professor of chemistry in Genua (1855), Palermo, (1861) and Rome (1871). He conducted research on natural compounds like santonin, the synthesis of cyanamide and the disproportionation of aldehydes (Cannizarro´s reaction, 1853). At the international congress in Karlsruhe (1860) he successfully defended Avogadro’s hypothesis.
  • Claisen, Ludwig (1851-1930)
    Born: Köln (Germany), 1851 Died: Godesberg near Bonn (Germany), 1930
  • Claisen was professor in Aachen in 1890, Kiel in 1897 and Berlin in 1904. Several syntheses especially condensation reactions between aldehydes, ketones, and esters (1881-1890) are connected with Claisen´s name. He also carried out research on tautomerism and rearrangement reactions (Umlagerungsreaktionen).
  • Dalton, John (1766-1844)
    Born: Eaglesfield (England), 1766 Died: Manchester (England), 1844
  • Dalton left school at the age of eleven and in 1778 he started teaching at a Quaker school. Dalton’s scientific research started with meteorology. In 1794 he was the first to describe colour blindness. Dalton also studied the composition of air and gases and in 1801 he promulgated the law of partial pressures. Two years later he enunciated the law of multiple proportions. Dalton first advanced atomic notions and in 1808 he published the “New System of Chemical Philosophy”. He was also the first to prepare a table of atomic weights. Nowadays one name used for the measure of atomic weights is the dalton.
  • Davy, Humphry (1778-1829)
    Born: Penzance (England), 1778 Died: Geneva (Switzerland), 1829
  • Davy studied pharmacy by self-education but after reading Lavoisier’s textbook he became a chemist in 1797. He studied the therapeutic properties of gases and in 1800 reported the unusual properties of nitrous oxide. This gas was the first chemical anaesthetic. In 1801 he became a lecturer at the newly founded Royal Institution in London. In 1813 he published the first textbook dealing with the application of chemistry to agriculture. However, his true fame is in electricity due to his invention in 1805 of the Davy lamp, which was of utmost importance for the mining industry. In 1808 he isolated barium, strontium, calcium and magnesium. Davy also proved that hydrochloric acid did not contain oxygen.
  • de Marignac, Jean Charles Galissard (1817-1894)
    Born: Geneva (Switzerland), 1817 Died: Geneva (Switzerland), 1894
  • Marignac studied in Paris under Dumas and in Giessen at the laboratory of Liebig. In 1841 he became professor at the University of Geneva. He determined atomic weights and worked with rare earths. He his given credit for the discovery of ytterbium and gadolinium.
  • Dumas, Jean Baptiste André (1800-1884)
    Born: Alès (former Alais) (France), 1800 Died: Cannes (France), 1884
  • As one of the leading chemists of the 19th century Dumas was professor in several institutions in Paris (since 1829). In 1850/51 he was Minister of Agriculture, 1868 he became mintmaster general of France. Among his many papers those on etherin theory, on the theory substitution, on the theory of types, on the measurement of vapour densities and on the determination of nitrogen in organic compounds, on the isolation of anthracene from tar, on chloral, iodoform, bromoform, and on picric acid merit special mention.
  • Faraday, Michael (1791-1867)
    Born: Newington (England), 1791 Died: Hampton Court (England), 1867
  • Faraday as autodidact followed the lectures of H.Davy. In 1813 he became the assistant of Davy and accompanied him during his travels to France and Italy where he met Vauquelin and Volta. In 1825 he discovered benzene. He carried on Davy’s great work in electrochemistry. Faraday reduced the matter of electrolysis to quantitative terms by announcing the well known laws of electrolysis. He also successfully converted electrical and magnetic forces into continual mechanical movement. He invented the first transformer.
  • Fischer, Emil (1852-1919)
    Born: Euskirchen near Köln (Germany), 1852 Died: Berlin (Germany), 1919
  • Fischer began his career as student of Adoph v. Baeyer, in 1879 he became professor in München (1879), Erlangen (1881), Würzburg (1885), and Berlin (1892). In 1883 Fischer found a synthesis for indol, later he did research on purines (1880-84), on sugars, on barbituric acid, and on amino-acids. In 1902 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry.
  • Frankland, Edward (1825-1899)
    Born: Churchton, Lancashire (England), 1825 Died: Golaa (Norway), 1899
  • Frankland taught himself chemistry. He went to Germany, where he met Kolbe, Liebig and Bunsen. He obtained his Ph.D. in Marburg (1849). In 1865 he succeeded Hofmann at the Royal College of Chemistry. He was the first to prepare organometallic compounds. This study led him to devise the theory of valence in 1852. Beginning in 1868 Frankland did a lot of work on river pollution, an important subject in industrial England.
  • Fresenius, Carl Remigius (1818-1897)
    Born: Frankfurt-am-Main (Germany), 1818 Died: Wiesbaden (Germany), 1897
  • Fresenius became an apprentice apothecary and worked in the private laboratory of C. Marquart, professor in pharmacy in Bonn. He compiled, in 1841, a manual for qualitative analysis. In 1842 he took his Ph.D. as an assistant of Liebig. He also published a manual for quantitative analysis. Both books, reprinted several times and translated, were the bible of the time for analytical chemists. He founded, in 1848 in Wiesbaden, a very famous institute where analytical chemistry was taught and chemical analysis were done. In 1862 he founded the Zeitschrift für Analytische Chemie, which played a leading role.
  • Gay-Lussac, Joseph Louis (1778-1850)
    Born: St. Leonard (France), 1778 Died: Paris (France), 1850
  • Gay-Lussac studied at the Ecole Polytechnique. He graduated in 1800. He became professor in chemistry at the Ecole Polytechnique (1806), in physics in the Sorbonne (1809) and in chemistry in the Jardin des Plantes (1832). In 1802 he showed that different gases all expanded by equal amounts with a rise in temperature. He isolated boron without electricity (1808). In 1809 he announced the law of combining volumes of gases. He added new techniques to the armory of analytical chemistry. In 1811 he determined the elementary composition of sugar for the first time.
  • Graham, Thomas (1805-1869)
    Born: Glasgow (Scotland), 1805 Died: London (England), 1869
  • Graham graduated in 1826 and by 1830 he was professor of chemistry of the University of Glasgow. His researches on the diffusion of gases and liquids and phosphoric acids are of fundamental importance. He studied a variety of colloidal systems and coined the term “dialysis”. He can be considered as one of the founders of physical chemistry. In 1841 Graham became the first president of the Chemical Society of London.
  • Hofmann, August Wilhelm (1818-1892)
    Born: Giessen (Germany), 1818 Died: Berlin (Germany), 1892
  • Hofmann was a pupil of Justus Liebig. From 1845 to 1864 he was professor at several institutions in London. After that he served as professor in Bonn and Berlin. His main field of research were organic nitrogen compounds like aniline and toluidine. He became one of the initiators of the coal-tar dyestuff industry. In 1851 he postulated an ammonia type of organic compounds and showed that ammonia salts can be transformed to tertiary amines. Hofmann also produced formaldehyde from methanol and introduced an apparatus for the electrolysis of water.
  • Kekulé, Friedrich August (1829-1896)
    Born: Darmstadt (Germany), 1829 Died: Bonn (Germany), 1896
  • Kekulé, who started studies in architecture, turned himself to chemistry led by Liebig in Giessen (1849-1851). After his doctors degree in Giessen (1852), he traveled through England and France, where he did research under Williamson and Dumas. In 1856 he obtained a professorship at Heidelberg. By that time he announced the tetravalence of carbon (1853). In 1858 he took up a professorship at the University of Ghent (Belgium). In 1865 he introduced the structure of benzene and in 1867 Kekulé moved to Bonn.
  • Kolbe, Adolph Wilhelm Hermann (1818-1884)
    Born: Elliehausen near Göttingen (Germany), 1818 Died: Leipzig (Germany), 1884
  • Kolbe studied with Friedrich Wöhler and Robert Bunsen and after 1845 spent 2 years in London with Lyon Playfair. Then he was professor in Marburg (1851) and in Leipzig (1865). As one of the best experimentors of his time he conducted research of the reaction of carbon disulphide and chlorine, the synthesis of acetic acid from inorganic matter, the transformation of alcohols into carboxylic acids and the synthesis of salicylic acid. Relying on the fact that many organic compounds are derivatives of carbonic acid Kolbe professed a type theory of his own making while rejecting Jacobus Henricus van ‘t Hoff´s and Achille Le Bel´s tetrahedron model of carbon.
  • Laurent, Auguste (1807-1853)
    Born: St. Maurice (France), 1807 Died: Paris (France), 1853
  • Laurent earned a degree as a mining engineer (1837), and served as assistant to Dumas, then he became professor of chemistry at Bordeaux (1838). Laurent fought against the dualistic theory of Berzelius. He classified organic compounds according to the characteristic groupings of atoms within a molecule. His suggestion formed the basis of the Geneva nomenclature adopted for organic chemistry in 1892.
  • Le Chatelier, Henri Louis (1850-1936)
    Born: Paris (France), 1850 Died Miribel-les-Echelles (France), 1936
  • Le Châtelier graduated from the Ecole des Mines and in 1827 became professor of general chemistry at the School of Mines. He is best known for his rule (1888) on the chemical equilibrium. Le Châtelier’s principle was of the utmost importance to rationalise the chemical industry.
  • Liebig, Justus (1803-1873)
    Born: Darmstadt (Germany), 1803 Died: München (Germany), 1873
  • In 1824 Liebig became professor in Giessen where he established a laboratory to teach the methods of chemical research. In 1852 he moved to München. Liebig´s work covered technical chemistry (galvanoplastic, silver-plating of glass etc.), analytical chemistry (separation of Ni and Co, quantitative determination of prussic acid, methods for organic elementary analysis), research in inorganic chemistry (isomerism of cyanic and fulminic acid) and research in organic chemistry especially on ´radicals´ (benzaldehyde etc.), sometimes in co-operation with Friedrich Wöhler. He also worked on the chemistry of chlorinated substances like chloral, chloroform etc. and on many others. Liebig is also one of the founders of agricultural chemistry (mineral fertilisers and extract of beef).
  • Mendeléev, Dmitri Ivanovich (1834-1907)
    Born: Tobolsk (Russia), 1834 Died: St.-Petersburg (Russia), 1907
  • Mendeleev studied in St.-Petersburg (1855), then went to France and Germany for graduate training under Bunsen. He attended the Karlsruhe Congress in 1860 and became professor of chemistry at the University of St.-Petersburg in 1866. Mendeleev could arrange all the elements known in his time (63) in order of atomic weights and get periodic rises and falls of valence (1869). This table is called the periodic table. Mendeleev left gaps in his table and announced that the gap represented elements not yet discovered. Mendeleev and his table brought order to the list of elements and served as a guide for chemists half a century later.
  • Meyer, Julius Lothar (1830-1895)
    Born: Varel (Germany), 1830 Died: Tübingen (Germany), 1895
  • Meyer earned a degree as a physician in 1854 and a Ph.D. at the University of Breslau in 1858. He studied under Bunsen and Kirchhoff. Meyer was very influenced by Cannizzaro’s remarks at the Karlsruhe Congress (1860). He published a textbook of chemistry (1864) with the new concepts of molecules as oxygen, nitrogen. He concentrated on a periodic system of chemical elements, but he did not predict, as Mendeleev did, the existence of undiscovered elements.
  • Moissan, Ferdinand Frédéric Henri (1852-1907)
    Born: Paris (France), 1852 Died: Paris (France), 1907
  • Moissan studied pharmacy (1879), and earned his Ph.D. in 1885. He then joined the Faculty of the School of Pharmacy in Paris (1886) and moved on to the Sorbonne in 1900. Moissan’s teacher, E. Frémy, was interested in the isolation of the element fluorine. Numerous chemists had already tried to do this. Moisson attempted different techniques and finally he isolated the gas on June 26, 1886. Fluorine is the most active of all the elements. For this research was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1906.
  • Ostwald, Friedrich Wilhelm (1853-1932)
    Born: Riga (Latvia, Russia), 1853 Died: Großbothen near Leizig (Germany), 1932
  • In 1881 Ostwald became professor at a polytechnic institute in Riga, in 1887 in Leipzig (first chair for physical chemistry). After 1877 Ostwald occupied himself with the problem of chemical affinities and of slow chemical reactions. After 1884 together with Svante Arrhenius he studied the conductivities of electrolytes and found the ´law of dilution´ (Verdünnungs-gesetz). He also worked on the equilibria and velocities of chemicals and established a ´rule of steps´ (Stufenregel) for the gradual course of certain chemical reactions. Other fields of investigation were catalysis (preparation of nitric acid, autocatalysis) and systematisation of colours. Ostwald also wrote extensively on natural philosophy and the history of science. In 1909 he was awarded the Nobel prize for chemistry.
  • Pasteur, Louis (1822-1895)
    Born: Dôle (France), 1822 Died: St.-Cloud (France), 1895
  • Pasteur was not a remarkably good student in chemistry, he received the mark “mediocre”. However, he attended the lectures of Dumas in Paris, which fired him with enthusiasm. Pasteur studied the crystals of tartrates under the microscope. He separated the two different types of asymmetric crystals and proved that they were optical isomers (1848). This achievement made him famous and in 1854 he became professor at the University of Lille. There he discovered that fermentation did involve living organisms, which could be killed by gentle heating (pasteurisation). Pasteur also did a lot of work in medicine e.g. the theory of infectious diseases, and the use of vaccinations (he is considered as the founder of bacteriology).
  • Perkin, William Henry (Sir) (1838-1907)
    Born: London (England), 1838 Died Sudbury (England), 1907
  • Perkin studied under Hofmann, for whom he became an assistant in 1855. After the accidental discovery of mauveine at the age of eighteen, Perkin started to build a dye factory. He stimulated the development of synthetic dyes. In 1874 he sold his factory and returned to research. He synthesised coumarin, which marked the start of the synthetic perfume industry.
  • Proust, Joseph Louis (1754-1826)
    Born: Angers (France), 1754 Died: Angers (France), 1826
  • Proust studied under Guillaume Francois Rouelle. In 1777 he became professor in Segovia, later in Salamanca and Madrid. In 1797 he formulated his law of constant proportions independent of the way a specific compound is synthesised. In a dispute with Berthollet 1801-1808 he defended his opinion by analysing many compounds. He returned to France in 1808. Proust also investigated several foodstuffs and discovered leucine.
  • Ramsay, William (1852-1916)
    Born: Glasgow (Scotland), 1852 Died: High Wycombe (England), 1916
  • Ramsay studied chemistry at the University of Glasgow (1866) and in Germany under Bunsen (1871). He obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Tübingen and became professor of chemistry at the University College in Bristol (1880) and at the University College in London (1887). Although chiefly interested in organic chemistry he grew intrigued by the problem posed by Rayleigh (1892), that nitrogen obtained from air was denser than that obtained from compounds. Using the spectroscope Ramsay and Rayleigh could identify a new family of chemical elements with valence of zero. They discovered the nobel gases: argon (1894), helium (1895), and neon, krypton and xenon (1898). Ramsay received the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1904, while Rayleigh received the Nobel Prize in physics the same year.
  • Sainte-Claire Deville, Henri Etienne (1818-1881)
    Born: St. Thomas (Virgin Islands), 1818 Died: Boulogne-sur Seine (France), 1881
  • Sainte-Claire Deville studied chemistry with Thénard. He received a professorial appointment at the University of Besançon in 1845, at the Ecole Normale in Paris in 1851 and at the Sorbonne in 1859. He discovered a method to prepare aluminium at a very low price and he worked on the metallurgy of platinum and tantalum.
  • Solvay, Ernest (1838-1922)
    Born: Rebecq-Rognon (Belgium), 1838 Died: Brussels (Belgium), 1922
  • Solvay had little formal education. In the gasworks of his uncle he worked out several methods of purifying gas. He dissolved ammonia and carbon dioxide in salt water, the solution produced a precipitate that turned out to be sodium bicarbonate. Solvay took out his first patent in 1861, founded a company and after three years settled down to success. By 1913 he was producing virtually the entire world supply of sodium bicarbonate. He founded the International Institute for Physics and Chemistry in Brussels (1894), where the famous Solvay-congresses were held.
  • Stas, Jean Servais (1813-1891)
    Born: Leuven (Belgium), 1813 Died Brussels (Belgium), 1891
  • Stas worked under the direction of Dumas, with whom he established the atomic weight of carbon. Stas was appointed as professor at the Military School in Brussels in 1840 and worked assiduously in determining atomic weights more accurately than had ever been done before. Stas’ aim to prove the hypothesis of Proust, that all atoms were conglomerations of hydrogen atoms, could not become achieved. Stas was probably the most skilful, chemical analyst of the nineteenth century.
  • Van ‘t Hoff, Jacobus Henricus (1852-1911)
    Born: Rotterdam (The Netherlands), 1852 Died: Berlin (Germany), 1911
  • Van ‘t Hoff studied at the Polytechnical School at Delft (1869-1871), at the University of Leiden (1871-1872), in Bonn with Kekulé (1872), in Paris with Wurtz (1873) and obtained his doctor’s degree in Utrecht (1874). He published in 1874 his famous article about the tetrahedral arrangement of the carbon atom, which could prove the optical isomery of carbon compounds. He was offered a professorship in Amsterdam (1879-1896). He went to work on thermodynamics. In 1884 he developed the dynamic equilibrium model of chemical reactions. In 1886 the theory of the osmotic pressure of diluted solutions. In 1896 he transferred his labors to Berlin. When the Nobel Prizes were established in 1901, Van ‘t Hoff received the first Nobel Prize for chemistry.
  • Werner, Alfred (1866-1919)
    Born: Mulhouse (France), 1866 Died: Zürich (Switzerland), 1919
  • Werner earned his Ph.D. at the University of Zürich in Switzerland (1890) and did postdoctoral work with Berthelot in Paris. Beginning 1891 he developed a co-ordination theory of molecular structure. Co-ordination bonds were often spoken of as secondary valence. In 1913 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry.
  • Williamson, Alexander William (1824-1904)
    Born: London (England), 1824 Died: Hindhead (England), 1904
  • Williamson became interested in chemistry through his medical education at Heidelberg (Germany). He studied under Graham and Liebig. He was appointed as professor of chemistry at the University College in London (1849). His discovery of the structure of alcohols and ethers gave him the ability to classify organic compounds into types according to structure. He formulated the concept of dynamic equilibrium of a reaction and demonstrated the catalytic action of sulphuric acid in the synthesis of ether from alcohol.
  • Wöhler, Friedrich (1800-1882)
    Born: Eschersheim (Germany), 1800 Died: Göttingen (Germany), 1882
  • Wöhler obtained a degree as a physician in Heidelberg (1823), but persuaded by Gmelin he oriented himself to chemistry. He was lecturer at the Technical High School in Kassel (1831-1836) and professor of chemistry at the University of Göttingen (1836-1882). In 1828 Wöhler prepared urea from ammonium cyanate, this was a blow against the concept of vitalism. He showed that when benzoic acid is taken up it is excreted in the urine as hippuric acid (start of metabolic studies). Wöhler was also interested in the inorganic chemistry: he noted the similarity of carbon and silicon and was the first to prepare silane (SiH4).
  • Wurtz, Charles Adolphe (1817-1884)
    Born: Wolfisheim (Alsace), 1817 Died: Paris (France), 1884
  • Wurtz embarked on medical studies, but studied chemistry under Liebig (Giessen). In Paris he gained professorial status (1853). He was the first professor of organic chemistry at the Sorbonne (1875). Wurtz was the first important chemist in France to support the structural views of Laurent. In 1855 he discovered the still called “Wurtz-reaction”. He prepared many different substances.