Berthollet, Claude-Louis

SUBJECT AREA: Textiles
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b. 9 November 1748 Talloise, near Lake Annecy, France
d. 6 November 1822 Arceuil, France
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French chemist who made important innovations in textile chemistry.
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Berthollet qualified as a medical doctor and pursued chemical researches, notably into "muriatic acid" (chlorine), then recently discovered by Scheele. He was one of the first chemists to embrace the new system of chemistry advanced by Lavoisier. Berthollet held several official appointments, among them inspector of dye works (from 1784) and Director of the Manufacture Nationale des Gobelins. These appointments enabled him to continue his researches and embark on a series of publications on the practical applications of chlorine, prussic acid (hydrocyanic acid) and ammonia. He clearly demonstrated the benefits of the French practice of appointing scientists to the state manufactories.
There were two practical results of Berthollet's studies of chlorine. First, he produced a powerful explosive by substituting potassium chlorate, formed by the action of chlorine on potash, in place of nitre (potassium nitrate) in gunpowder. Then, mainly from humanitarian motives, he followed up Scheele's observation of the bleaching properties of chlorine water, in order to release for cultivation the considerable areas of land that had hitherto been required by the old bleaching process. The chlorine method greatly speeded up bleaching; this was a vital factor in the revolution in the textile industries.
After a visit to Egypt in 1799, Berthollet carried out many experiments on dyeing, seeking to place this ancient craft onto a scientific basis. His work is summed up in his Eléments de l'art de la teinture, Paris, 1791.
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Bibliography
1791, Eléments de Van de la teinture, Paris (covers his work on dyeing).
Berthollet published two books of importance in the early history of physical chemistry: 1801, Recherches sur les lois de l'affinité, Paris.
1803, Essai de statique chimique, Paris.
His scientific papers appeared mainly in Mémores de l'Académie Royal des Sciences and
Annales de Chimie.
Further Reading
E.F.Jomard, 1844, Notice sur la vie et les ouvrages de Claude-Louis Berthollet, Annecy.
E.Farber, 1961, Great Chemists, New York: Interscience, pp. 32–4 (includes a short biographical account).
LRD

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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