Mansfield, Charles Blachford

SUBJECT AREA: Chemical technology
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b. 8 May 1819 Rowner, Hampshire, England
d. 26 February 1855 London, England
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English chemist, founder of coal-tar chemistry.
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Mansfield, the son of a country clergyman, was educated privately at first, then at Winchester College and at Cambridge; ill health, which dogged his early years, delayed his graduation until 1846. He was first inclined to medicine, but after settling in London, chemistry seemed to him to offer the true basis of the grand scheme of knowledge he aimed to establish. After completing the chemistry course at the Royal College of Chemistry in London, he followed the suggestion of its first director, A.W.von Hofmann, of investigating the chemistry of coal tar. This work led to a result of great importance for industry by demonstrating the valuable substances that could be extracted from coal tar. Mansfield obtained pure benzene, and toluene by a process for which he was granted a patent in 1848 and published in the Chemical Society's journal the same year The following year he published a pamphlet on the applications of benzene.
Blessed with a private income, Mansfield had no need to support himself by following a regular profession. He was therefore able to spread his brilliant talents in several directions instead of confining them to a single interest. During the period of unrest in 1848, he engaged in social work with a particular concern to improve sanitation. In 1850, a description of a balloon machine in Paris led him to study aeronautics for a while, which bore fruit in an influential book, Aerial Navigation (London, 1851). He then visited Paraguay, making a characteristically thorough and illuminating study of conditions there. Upon his return to London in 1853, Mansfield resumed his chemical studies, especially on salts. He published his results in 1855 as Theory of Salts, his most important contribution to chemical theory.
Mansfield was in the process of preparing specimens of benzene for the Paris Exhibition of 1855 when a naphtha still overflowed and caught fire. In carrying it to a place of safety, Mansfield sustained injuries which unfortunately proved fatal.
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Bibliography
1851, Aerial Navigation, London. 1855, Theory of Salts, London.
Further Reading
E.R.Ward, 1969, "Charles Blachford Mansfield, 1819–1855, coal tar chemist and social reformer", Chemistry and Industry 66:1,530–7 (offers a good and well-documented account of his life and achievements).
LRD

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

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