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Bucquet, Jean-Baptiste Michel

Bucquet, Jean-Baptiste Michel

(b. Paris, France, 18 February 1746; d. Paris, 24 January 1780)


Bucquet, the son of a lawyer, was destined for the bar by his father, but he soon abandoned jurisprudence to take up the study of medicine. He became docteur-régent at the Faculty of Medicine in Paris in 1770, by which time chemistry had become his main interest. His enthusiasm for it was prompted by the conviction that chemistry held the key to natural history and medicine, and, toward the end of 1770, he began to give courses in which he linked natural history and chemistry.

From 1775 to 1777, Bucquet was professor of pharmacy at the Faculty of Medicine and, at the death of Augustin Roux in 1776, he was elected to succeed him in the chair of chemistry. Bucquet gave his first public course in chemistry in 1777. He continued the chemistry courses he had been giving in private laboratories, in addition to those at the Faculty, until ill health forced him to abandon these private courses in the autumn of 1779. At different times during his career Bucquet also gave courses in botany, physiology, anatomy, hygiene, and medicine.

In February 1777 Bucquet was elected associate of the Société Royale de Médecine, and he took the place of Sage as adjoint-chimiste at the Academy of Sciences in Paris on 14 January 1778.

Bucquet’s aim was to integrate chemistry with all the subjects related to it, but he found the published work in chemistry too unreliable to act as a basis for his project. Accordingly, he decided to repeat much of the experimental work that had already been done. Because of this decision and his early death, he made little original contribution to chemistry.

Among Bucquet’s published works are memoirs on the analysis of minerals and the chemistry of gases. He modified David Macbride’s apparatus to produce and investigate “fixed air” (carbon dioxide) and showed that quicklime would react with it only in aqueous solution. Later, after collecting and measuring the carbon dioxide produced by heating marble, and confirming that carbon dioxide was acid, he suggested the name acide crayeux for it. Bucquet’s work on gases was probably of great use to Lavoisier.

The memoirs on ethers and the analysis of blood, which Bucquet read, were never published. Of these, the one on ethers, read in March 1777, is the more interesting. In addition to the memoirs, Bucquet published books on mineral and plant chemistry. His work on plant chemistry seems to be the first detailed account of that branch of chemistry to be published.

From 1777 on Bucquet worked with Lavoisier on a number of topics, and the project they conceived of repeating most of the fundamental experiments done in chemistry up to that time, in preparation for an early draft of Lavoisier’s Traité de chimie, was so perfectly in keeping with Bucquet’s avowed aims that there is little doubt that he was the orginator. Bucquet seems to have been the first to teach Laviosier’s theory, which he began to include in his courses as early as 1778.


I. Original Works. Bucquet’s doctoral theses, which are to be found in the Arsénal Library, Paris, are “An digestio alimentorum, vera digestio chymica?” (Jan. 1769); “An recèns nato, lac recèns enixae matris?” (Mar. 1769); “An in febre malignâ balneum?” (Jan. 1770); and “An in partu difficili, sola manus instrumentum?” (Mar. 1770).

His books are Introduction à l’étude des corps naturels tirés du règne minéral, 2 vols. (Paris, 1771); and Introduction à l’étude des corps naturels tirés du règne végétal, 2 vols. (Paris, 1773).

Published memoirs are ldquo;Premier mémoire sur plusieurs combinaisons salines de l’arsenic”, in Mémoires mathématiques et physiques… par divers savans, 9 (1780), 643–658; “Seconde mémoire sur les combinaisons salines de l’arsenic”, ibid., 659–672; “Expériences physico-chimiques sur l’air qui se dégage des corps dans le temps de leur décomposition, et qu’on connoît sous le nom vulgaire d’air fixé”, ibid., 7 (1776), 1–17; “Sur quelques circonstances qui accompagnent la dissolutions du sel ammoniac par la chaux vive, par les matiéres métalliques et par leurs chaux, relativement aux propriétés attribuées à l’air fixé”, ibid., 9 (1780), 563–575; “Analyse de la zéolite”, ibid., 576–592; “Sur l’analyse de l’opium”, in Mémoires de la Société royale de médecine (1779), 399–404; Sur la maniére dont les animaux sont affectés par différens fluides aériformes méphitiques, et sur les moyens de remédier aux effets de ces fluides; aériformes ou gaz (Paris, 1778); and Rapport sur l’analyse du rob antisyphillitique du Sr. Laffecteur (Paris, 1779).

Manuscript works are a letter to an unknown person, concerning the preparation of different kinds of ether, dated Paris, 22 Aug. 1773, Bibliothèque de Besançon, MS 1441, fols. 135–136; “Sur les moyens d’obtenir facilement les éthers nitreux et marin”, Académie des Sciences, MS in dossier for 19 Mar. 1777; “Analyse chimique du sang”, Académie des Sciences, MS in Bucquet dossier; “Notice abrégée de différents mémoires de chymie dont quelquesuns sont les fruits de mes recherches particuliéres, les autres ont été faits et rédigés conjointement avec Mr. Lavoisier”, Académie des Sciences, MS in Bucquet dossier. Manuscript records of courses given by Bucquet are “Précis des leçons de chimie de feu M. Bucquet”, “Bibliothéque de St. Brieuc, MS 106; “Analyse du cours de phisiologie de M. Bucquet, commencé 17 août 1773, fini le 21 octobre 1773–, Bibliothéque de Rheims, MS 1021 (N fonds); and Lavoisier’s laboratory notebooks, Vol. V, Académie des Sciences, MS.

II. Secondary Literature. Works on Bucquet are E. McDonald, Jean-Baptiste Michel Bucquet (1746–1780)— His Life and Work, M.Sc. dissertation (Univ. of London, 1965); and “The Collaboration of Bucquet and Lavoisier”, in Ambix, 13 no. 2 (1966), 74–83.

E. McDonald

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