Baumé, Antoine

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Baumé, Antoine

(b. Senlis, France, 26 February 1728; d. Paris, France, 15 October 1804)

chemistry, pharmacy.

The son of Guillaume Baumé, who ran two inns in Senlis, Antoine Baumé seems to have had the advantages of a fairly well-to-do home. About 1743 he was apprenticed to a pharmacist in Compiègne, but by 1745 he was working in C. J. Geoffroy’s dispensary in Paris, where he was able to indulge and develop his interest in theoretical chemistry as well as in pharmacy. In 1752 he became maître apothicaire, and opened his own dispensary in the Rue St.-Denis, Paris, the following year; it was moved to the Rue Coquillère in 1762.

In addition to its role as a local pharmacy, Baumé’s dispensary supplied drugs in bulk to pharmacies and hospitals over a very wide area and manufactured drugs and other chemicals in large quantities. In 1767 he began the first large-scale production of sal ammoniac in France; he doubtless owed something in this connection to Geoffroy, who had been the first in France to make sal ammoniac. Baumé also supplied industrial and laboratory apparatus, some of which he designed himself. In particular, his areometer (1768) was an important step forward, in that it possessed a scale having two fixed points (the density of distilled water and that of a salt solution of known concentration), thus enabling properly calibrated instruments to be produced. In 1777, Baumé won first prize for an essay on the best furnaces, alembics, and other apparatus to be used in the distillation of wine.

In 1757, Baumé and Macquer began a series of courses in chemistry and pharmacy that continued for sixteen years. Baumé equipped the laboratory, supplied the funds, and prepared all the experiments to be carried out. An outline of this course, Plan d’un course de chymie expérimentale et raisonnée..., was published in 1757. Apart from this, Baumé published a number of works on chemistry and pharmacy that ran into several editions. He also contributed to the Dictionnaire des arts et métiers (1766).

From 1755 until the end of his life, Baumé produced many memoirs, the first of these being a dissertation on ether. (One of the many bitter wrangles he entered into with his fellow scientists was a dispute with L. C. Cadet de Gassicourt concerning the best and cheapest method of preparing ether [1775].) Baumé’s many disputes nearly cost him membership in the Académie des Sciences, but he was finally elected as adjoint-chimiste on 25 December 1772; he became associé in 1778 and pensionnaire in 1785.

Despite his perceptiveness in some matters—he pointed out that two affinity tables were necessary (Chymie expérimentale et raisonnée, 1 [1773], 22), one for reactions done in the wet way and one for reactions done in the dry way—Baumé resisted the new theories in chemistry until the end of his life. He remained a determined phlogistonist—as late as 1797 he stated quite categorically that water could not be decomposed. With the coming of the Revolution, Baumé lost his fortune, including his pension as a member of the Academy, but in 1795, as a result of an appeal to the Committee of Public Instruction, he received a sum of money that enabled him to open another dispensary in 1796. At the newly formed Institut de France, he obtained only a place as associé non résidant, which carried a minimum of privileges.


An excellent and detailed bibliography of Baumé’s works is given in René Davy, L’apothicaire Antoine Baumé (1728–1804) (Cahors, 1955), pp. 141–147.

Other works on Baumé are L. C. Cadet de Gassicourt, Éloge de Baumé, apothicaire (Brussels, an XIII [1805]); Delunel, “Éloge de Baumé,” in Société de pharmacie de Paris, séance publique (an XIV [1806]), p. 27; and N. Deyeux, “Éloge de Baumé,” in Annales de chimie et de physique, 4 (30 messidor an XIII [1805]), 105.

E. McDonald