Blomstrand, Christian Wilhelm

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Blomstrand, Christian Wilhelm

(b. Växjö, Sweden, 20 October 1826; d. Lund, Sweden, 5 November 1897)

Chemistry, mineralogy.

The son of John Blomstrand, a teacher in a Gymnasium, and his wife Severina Rodhe, Blomstrand originally studied mineralogy at the University of Lund. His interest in chemistry began only after he had been awarded his doctorate (1850) and had been named the first recipient of the Berzelius scholarship. His Habilitationsschrift dealt with bromine and iodine compounds of tin. At the University of Lund, Blomstrand became adjunct in chemistry (1856) and later professor of chemistry and mineralogy (1862), a position that he occupied until his retirement (1895), He never married, and except for a brief period in 1861 when he served as mineralogist on an expedition to Spitzbergen, he remained at Lund.

Blomstrand’s experimental inorganic research largely concerned the Group VB elements—the so called earth acids (halides and oxyhalides of niobium, tantalum, molybdenum, and tungsten; heteropoly acids of iodic and periodic acid with chromic, molybdic, and tungstic acids). In addition to his strictly chemical work, he characterized and analyzed many minerals, especially those of the rarer elements or lof unknown composition, such as monazite, ilmenite, tantalitel, niobite, and euxenite.

Most of Blomstrand’s theoretical works (such as those on azoammonium and chain theories) are polemical, but more often conciliatory than inflammatory in tone. Since he lived in Sweden during a period of transition between the older and newer chemistries and since he was a scientific as well as a political conservative, he sought to reconcile Berzelius’ dualistic theory with the unitary and type theories. He was opposed to Kekulé’s dogma of constant valence and strove to establish a sound and complete theory of variable valence. Blomstrand’s chain theory, as modified and developed by Sophus Mads Jørgensen, was the most successful of the numerous attempts to explain the constitution of metalamines. It held sway for roughly a quarter century, until it was displaced by Alfred Werner’s coordination theory in 1893.


1. Original Works. “ZurFrage über die Constitution der Diazoverbindungen,” in Berichte der Deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft, 8 (1875), 51–55; “Über die Metal lammoniake oder die Metallamine,” ibid., 4 (1871), 40–52 (an English translation appears in G. B. Kauffman, ed., Classics in Coordination Chemistry, Part II: Selected Papers [1798–1935], New York [in press]); Die Chemie der Jetztzeit vom Standpunkte der electrochemischen Auffassung aus Berzelius Lehre entwickelt, Blomstrand’s best-known work (Heidelberg, 1869) made his name known throughout Europe. A complete list of Blomstrand’s publications can be found in Svensk kemisk tidskrift, 38 no. 9 (1926), 235–238.

II. Secondary Literature. The entire Sept. 1926 issue of Svensk kemisk tidskrift, 38 no. 9, 234–314, is devoted to articles on various aspects of Blomstrand’ career; for obituaries, which include discussions of his works, see klaxon, Berichte der Deutsschen chemischen Gesellschaft, 30 (1897), 3227–3241; and E. von Meyer, Journal für praktische Chemie, 56 (1897), 397–400.

George B. Kauffman