Science Birthdays, December 9

Today is the birthday of Claude Berthollet, born in 1748, he showed how chlorine could be used for beaching in 1785, he met Napoleon in 1798 and taught him chemistry, in 1803 he showed that the rate of a chemical reaction was due to more than just the affinities alone. He along with Antonine Lavoisier developed a chemical nomenclature or system of names for naming chemical compounds. He also determined the composition of ammonia.  Potassium chlorate (one of my favorite compounds) is called Berthollet’s salt after him.

Karl Scheele, born 1742, apprenticed to an apothecary at age 14 because he was one of 11 children. He taught himself chemistry. He discovered tartaric acid, citric acid, benzoic acid, malic acid, oxalic acid, galic acid, lactic acid, uric acid, molybdic acid, arsenious acid, he was involved in the discovery of Chlorine, manganese, barium, molybdenum, tungsten, nitrogen, and oxygen, however he does not get credit for any of their discoveries. He actually discovered oxygen before Priestley but his published didn’t publish the book in time. He was not healthy and had rheumatism. He did not have any social life, and only got married when he was ready to die at age 43 which was hastened by his habit of tasting his chemical compounds.             

Fritz Haber, born 1868, studied under Hoffman and developed the glass electrode used on ph meters. He also studied under Bunsen so he studied gas reactions. He developed the Haber process in 1908 and then went on to develop poison gases.  He was so patriotic he tried to find a way of extracting gold from seawater to pay off Germanys reparations. When Hitler came to power he had to leave his beloved Germany because he was Jewish.


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