Bernthsen, Heinrich August

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Bernthsen, Heinrich August

(b. Krefeld, Prussia, 29 August 1855; d. Heidelberg, Germany, 26 November 1931)


Bernthsen was the son of Heinrich Friedrich Bernthsen, a construction contractor, and Anna Sybilla Terheggen. He first studied mathematics and natural sciences but later turned to chemistry, which he studied in Bonn and then in Heidelberg under Bunsen and Kopp. Uninterested in the work on gases being pursued there. Bernthsen thought of leaving Heidelberg, but remained to study with Kekulé and Victor Meyer. In 1877 he became lecturer-assistant to Kekulé, and two years later he gave his inaugural academic lecture. In 1883 he was appointed extraordinary professor, Bernthsen left the University of Heidelbergin 1887 to join the Badische Aniline- und iodafabrik as head the main laboratory; he later headed the patent division. In 1884 he married the daughter of a judge, Maria Magdelene Haubenschmied. Bernthsen was a member of the Deutsche Chemische Gesellschaft, an editor of the Jahresbericht über die Fortschritt der Chemie, and received honorary degrees from the Technische Hochbschule in Berlin and the University of Heidelberg.

Bernthsen’s chemical work was mainly industrial and dealt with dyes of the acridine and azine groups. He explained the composition of such substances as methylene blue and safranine. He also gave the Correct composition of sodium hyposulfite. Although he was generally more interested in analysis than in synthesis, he developed technically feasible processes for producing indigo, rhodamine, and tolyl red. As a patent director, he secured patents for his indigo process, Contact sulfuric acid, and lac dye. In the course of obtaining patents for his firm, Bernthsen became active in the movement for a patent law to protect industrial chemical processes and to strengthen the chemical industry.


I. Original Works. Among Bernthsen’s writings are “Zur Kenntniss der Derivate der Alpha-toluylsäure,” in Berichte der Deutsche chemischte Gesellschaft, 8 (1875), 691–693; “Zur Kenntniss der Amidine und der Thiamideein basischer organischer hydrosäuren,” in Annalen der Chemie, 184 (1877), 290–320: 192 (1878). 1–60, 197; 197 (1879). 341–351; “Ueber die Zusammensetzung des unter schwefligsäuren Natrons:” in Berichte der Deutsche chemische Gesellschaft, 14 (1881), 438–440; “Ueber das Methylenblau;” ibid., 16 (1883), 1025–1028, 2896–2904; Kurzes Lehrbuch der organization Chemie (Brunswick, 1887); “Zur Kenntniss der Konstitution der blawen Schwefelfarbstoffe,” In Chemiker-Zeitung, 32 (1908), 956–957 and Fünfzig Jahre Tätigkeit in chemischer Wissen schaft und Industrie (Heidelberg, 1925).

II. Secondary Literature. Works on Bernthsen are M, Bodenstein, “H. A. Bernthsen:” in Beriche der Deutsche chemische Gesellschaft, 65 (1932), 21a; K . Elbs. “August Bernthsen zum 70. Geburtstag.” in Zeitschrift für angewandte Chemie, 38 (1925), 737–139; K. Holdermann, “August Bernthsen,” in Zeitschrift fär Elektrochemie, 38 (1932), 49, and “August Bernthsen zum Gedächtnis.” in Zeitschrift für angewandte Chemie, 45 . (1932). 141–143: and J. R. Partington, A History of Chemistry, IV (1964), 839.

Ruth Anne Gienapp

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Bernthsen, Heinrich August

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