Baudrimont, Alexandre Édouard

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Baudrimont, Alexandre Édouard

(b. Compiègne, France, 25 February 1806 [Partington; 7 May in Micé and Poggendorff]; d. Bordeaux, France, 24 January 1880)

chemistry, physiology.

Baudrimont had an impressive range of scientific interests, but he accomplished nothing of major importance in any one of them. He was the son of Marie Victor Baudrimont, an inspector of bridges and roads, and Adélaïde Sauvage. At the age of twelve, Baudrimont was apprenticed to a pharmacist, to be trained in that profession, although he himself hoped to become a doctor. In 1823 he went to Paris to continue his training in pharmacy, taking up the study of medicine as well in 1825. He received his medical degree in 1831 and his first-class degree in pharmacy in 1834.

In the meantime, Baudrimont had developed his abilities as a chemist, first as a research assistant to E. R. A. Serres, with whom he published his first paper, in 1828, and then as an industrial chemist in Valenciennes, where he went in 1830 to earn money for his education.

After returning to Paris to receive his medical degree in 1831, Baudrimont went back to Valenciennes to practice medicine. But Paris was where he wished to live and work. During the 1830’s and 1840’s, he attempted to obtain a post in one of the scientific or medical centers in the capital. but he never advanced beyond minor positions at the Collège de France and the Faculté de Médicine. It was nevertheless a creative period for Baudrimont: he published the Introduction à l’étude de la chimie par la théorie atomique (1833), a mineralogy and geology textbook (1840), and the two-volume Traite de chimie générate et expérimentale (1844–1846). In addition, he wrote various theses either to obtain scientific degrees or to compete for academic posts in Paris; the most important of these was that on organic chemistry which he submitted in 1838 in competition for the chair of organic chemistry at the Écloe de Médecine.

His “Researches anatomiques et physiologiques sur le développement du foetus et en particulier l’évolution embryonnaire des oiseaux et des batraciens,” written with Gaspard Martin Saint-Ange, won the Académie des Sciences’s grand prize in physical sciences for 1846. His interest in applied chemistry was shown in contributions he made to the Dictionnaire de l’industrie commerciale et agricole in agricultural and industrial chemistry. In addition, Baudrimont obtained his degrees in pure science—his licentiate in 1839 and his doctorate in 1847. He was probably impelled to secure them by his failure to obtain a post teaching medical chemistry.

In 1847 he accepted a post as assistant to Auguste Laurent at the University of Bordeaux. Two years later he was awarded the chair of chemistry, and he remained in Bordeaux for the rest of his life. He had married in 1842, and had one son, Édouard. His nephew, Marie Victor Ernest Baudrimont, became a distinguished professor of pharmacy.

Baudrimont worked primarily in chemistry and physiology. In chemistry, he was active both as a theorist and as an experimentalist. In chemical theory, Baudrimont devoted his attention to molecular structure. He was greatly influenced by Ampère’s ideas on this subject. Like Ampère, he thought that molecules, at least in the solid state, were polyhedral, and like both Ampère and Gaudin, he thought that these molecular shapes could be determined from chemical and crystallographical data. Moreover, he came to believe that in many cases atoms were grouped together in submolecular units within the molecule. He worked out a hierarchy of such units: merons, which roughly corresponded to chemical radicals; merules, which made up merons; and mericules, which composed merules. In his late publications, Baudrimont attempted to explain all physical phenomena in terms of the oscillations or rotations of one or another of these units.

Baudrimont’s interest in molecular structure led him to adumbrate a theory of chemical types. He himself claimed to have used chemical types for classificatory purposes as early as 1835, but he did not develop his ideas on them until his 1838 thesis on organic chemistry. He engaged in a priority dispute with both Dumas and Laurent over the type theory, although Laurent did give him credit for first employing the term type chimique (Méthode de chimie, p.358). Baudrimont claimed that his ideas on chemical types were developed independently of the theory of substitution propounded by Dumas and Laurent.

As a theorist, Baudrimont was also one of the few proponents of Avogadro’s gas hypothesis in the 1830’s and 1840’s.

In experimental chemistry, Baudrimont made an important study of aqua regia in 1843, which he published in 1846. Distilling this substance, he produced and condensed a red gas (most likely nitrosyl chloride mixed with some free chlorine) that he thought was the active ingredient in aqua regia. Gay-Lussac disproved Baudrimont’s hypothesis but used his method of collecting the gaseous constituent. Baudrimont and F. J. M. Malaguti discovered the presence of sulfur in cystine in 1837.

Throughout his career Baudrimont was interested in physiological research and wrote extensively on physiology. The work that won him the greatest recognition was that done with Martin Saint-Ange. They studied the chemical changes that took place in embryonic development in chickens and amphibia and the toxological effects of various gaseous substances on the embryo.

Baudrimont’s other interests can only be indicated here, since they were so varied. His concern with material structure extended into physics; in the 1830’s he performed experiments testing the tenacity, ductibility, and malleability of metals. His interest in agricultural chemistry was lifelong and figured importantly in his work at Bordeaux. He also published works on geometry, philosophy of science, music theory, and linguistics.


I. Original Works. Baudrimont was a prolific writer. Numerous articles in many fields were published in the Annales de chimie et de physique, the Comptes-rendus hebdomadaires de l’Académie des sciences, and, especially after 1847, in the Mémories de la Société des sciences physiques et naturelles de Bordeaux and the Actes de l’Aacadémie des sciences, belles-lettres et arts de Bordeaux. The works listed here are the ones most relevant to the discussion of his scientific career: Introduction à l’étude de la chimie par la théorie atomique (Paris, 1833); “Quel est I’état actuel de la chimie organique, et quel secours a-t-elle reçu des recherches microscopes?,” thesis submitted in competition for the chair of organic chemistry and pharmacy of the École de Médecine (Paris, 1838); “Théorie de substitution, discussion de M. Dumas et de M. Pelouze; nouvelle classification des corps molécularires définis; réclamations de M. Baudrimont,” in Revue scientifique et industrielle, 1 (1840), 5–60; Traité de chimie générate et expérimentale, 2 vols. (Paris, 1844–1846); “Rechercheds sur l’eau régale et sur un produit particulier auquel elle doit ses principales propriétés,” in Annales de chimie, 3rd ser., 17 (1846), 24–42; and “Recherches anatomiques et physiologiques sur le développement du foetus et en particulier sur l’évolution embryonnaire des oiseaux et des batraciens,” in Mémoires présentés par divers savants a à l’Académie des sciences, 2nd ser., 11 (1851), 469–692, written with Martin Saint-Ange.

II. Secondary Literature. Works on Baudrimont are L. Micé, “Discours d’ouverture de la séance publique du 19 mai 1881 (éloge de M. Baudrimont),” in Actes de l’Académie de Bordeaux, 3rd ser., 42 (1880), 729–766; and “Éloge de M. Baudrimont, notes complémentaires,” ibid., 44 (1882), 557–624, a typically laudatory éloge, very detailed in its account of Baudrimont’s life and publications, that is his only extensive biography; and J. R. Partington, A History of Chemistry, IV (London, 1964), 391–393.

Seymour H. Mauskopf

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Baudrimont, Alexandre Édouard

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