chemistry

Stephen Mouton Babcock and the Babcock Test

Stephen Mouton Babcock and the Babcock Test

On July 2, 1931, American agricultural chemist Stephen Moulton Babcock passed away. He is best known for his Babcock test in determining dairy butterfat in milk processing, for cheese processing, and for the “single-grain experiment” that led to the development of nutritional science as a recognized discipline. He worked for 43 years at the University of Wisconsin, where he established a laboratory where he carried out pioneering research in nutrition and in…
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James Smithson’s Last Will and its Remarkable Consequences

James Smithson’s Last Will and its Remarkable Consequences

On June 27, 1829, English chemist and mineralogist James Smithson passed away, whose bequest of substantial funds in his will established the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge”, despite having never visited the United States. James Smithson was the illegitimate son of Sir Hugh Smithson, later known as Sir Hugh Percy, Baronet, First Duke of Northumberland, K.G., and Elizabeth Hungerford Keate. Elizabeth Keate was the wealthy widow…
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Jean-Antoine Chaptal and the Industrial Chemistry

Jean-Antoine Chaptal and the Industrial Chemistry

On June 5, 1756, French chemist, physician, agronomist, industrialist, statesman, educator and philanthropist Jean-Antoine Chaptal, comte de Chanteloup was born. Chaptal authored the first book on industrial chemistry and also coined the name “nitrogen. He was the first to produce sulphuric acid commercially in France at his factory at Montpellier and helped to organize the introduction of the metric system. Jean-Antoine Chaptal studied medicine at the medical school at the University of…
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Thomas Midgley Jr. and the Development of Leaded Fuel

Thomas Midgley Jr. and the Development of Leaded Fuel

On May 18, 1889, American mechanical engineer and chemist Thomas Midgley Jr. was born. Midgley was a key figure in a team of chemists, led by Charles F. Kettering, that developed the tetraethyllead (TEL) additive to gasoline as well as some of the first chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Over the course of his career, Midgley was granted over a hundred patents. Thomas Midgley Jr. grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and graduated from Cornell University…
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Thomas Wedgwood – possibly the First Photographer

Thomas Wedgwood – possibly the First Photographer

On May 14, 1771, early experimenter in the field of photography Thomas Wedgwood was born. He is the first person known to have thought of creating impermanent pictures by capturing camera images on material coated with a light-sensitive chemical. His practical experiments yielded only shadow image photograms that were not light-fast, but his conceptual breakthrough and partial success have led some historians to call him “the first photographer”. Thomas Wedgwood was born…
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Johann Joachim Becher and the Phlogiston Theory of Combustion

Johann Joachim Becher and the Phlogiston Theory of Combustion

On May 6, 1636, German physician, alchemist, precursor of chemistry, scholar and adventurer Johann Joachim Becher was born. He is best known for his development of the phlogiston theory of combustion, in which all flammable objects were supposed to contain a substance which was released when the object burned, and his advancement of Austrian cameralism. “The chemists are a strange class of mortals, impelled by an almost insane impulse to seek their…
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Harold Urey and the famous Miller–Urey experiment

Harold Urey and the famous Miller–Urey experiment

On April 29, 1893, American physical chemist and Nobel Laureatev Harold C. Urey was born. He played a significant role in the development of the atom bomb, but may be most prominent for his contribution to theories on the development of organic life from non-living matter. Harold Clayton Urey entered the University of Montana in 1914 and received his Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology in 1917. A few years later, he returned…
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Franz Achard and the Sugar Beet Revolution

Franz Achard and the Sugar Beet Revolution

On April 28, 1753, German (Prussian) chemist, physicist and biologist Franz Carl Achard was born. Achard‘s principal discovery was the production of sugar from sugar beets. In 1802, Achard opened the world’s first sugar producing industry plant in Prussia. Just imagine, the world harvested 250,191,362 metric tons of sugar beets in 2013, with Russia being the world’s largest producer. And only about 20% of the world‘s sugar production comes out of sugar…
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Ernest Solvay and his Love for Physics

Ernest Solvay and his Love for Physics

On April 16, 1838, Belgian chemist, industrialist and philanthropist Ernest Gaston Joseph Solvay was born. Solvay invented the Solvay Process (1863), a commercially viable ammonia-soda process for producing soda ash (sodium carbonate), widely used in the manufacture of such products as glass and soap. In 1911, he began a series of important conferences in physics, known as the Solvay Conferences, whose participants included luminaries such as Max Planck, Ernest Rutherford, Maria Skłodowska-Curie, Henri…
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Sidney Fox and his Research for the Origins of Life

Sidney Fox and his Research for the Origins of Life

On March 24, 1912, American biochemist Sidney W. Fox was born. In search for the origins of life, Fox explored the synthesis of amino acids from inorganic molecules, the synthesis of proteinous amino acids and amino acid polymers called “proteinoids” from inorganic molecules and thermal energy, and created what he thought was the world‘s first protocell out of proteinoids and water. “A further aspect I should like to discuss is what I…
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