250th Birthday: Nicolas-Louis Vauquelin

  • Author: ChemViews
  • Published Date: 16 May 2013
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
thumbnail image: 250th Birthday: Nicolas-Louis Vauquelin

Nicolas-Louis Vauquelin was born in the small village of St André d’Hébertot, north-western France, on May 16, 1763. At the age of 14, he was apprenticed to a pharmacist in Rouen, France, who also gave lectures in physics and chemistry. Vauquelin listened to these while attending his duties and these formed the basis of his chemical education. Later Vauquelin moved to Paris, France, where he continued to work as a pharmacist and met Antoine François de Fourcroy, Professor of Chemistry at the Medical School of Paris. Fourcroy took Vauquelin on as his assistant and the pair continued to collaborate for many years.

In 1793, as a result of the French revolution, Vauquelin was forced to leave Paris and spent a few months as a military pharmacist in Melun, France. In 1794, the Ecole Polytechnique opened in Paris and shortly after Vauquelin was appointed Assistant Professor of Chemistry there. Later he moved to the Ecole des Mines, where he began to explore mineral analysis. In 1797, he isolated chromium from the mineral Siberian red lead and was the first to recognize it as a new element.

In 1801, Vauquelin became Professor of Chemistry at the Collège de France, Paris. Following Fourcroy’s death in 1809, Vauquelin assumed the position as Professor of Chemistry at the Medical School of Paris.

Vauquelin died on November 4, 1829. He is remembered as the discoverer of chromium and beryllium, the latter of which he isolated from the precious stones beryl and emerald. He also made significant contributions to platinum group chemistry through his extensive and detailed study of iridium and osmium isolated from platinum residues.

Nicolas-Louis Vauquelin is the answer to Guess the Chemist 17, which gave details about his discovery and isolation of chromium.


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