Chardonnet, Louis-Marie-Hilaire Benrnigaud, Comte De

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Chardonnet, Louis-Marie-Hilaire Benrnigaud, Comte De

(b. Besançon, France, 1 May 1839; d. Paris, France, 12 March 1924),

cellulose technology.

Although Chardonnet was not the first to think of the possibility of making “artificial silk”, he was the pioneer of the technology necessary to establish the industry. The influences that prepared him for this, his most important contribution to science and technology, were his training as an engineer at the Ecole Polytechnique and the work of his illustrious fellow townsman Louis Pasteur. In particular, Pasteur’s preoccupation at one time with a disease of the silkworm led Chardonnet, as he later said, to think of “imitating as closely as possible the work of the silkworm.” As a result he devised a process in which a solution of cellulose nitrate was extruded through very fine glass capillaries to form continuous filaments. He applied for his first patent and submitted his memoir entitled, “Une matière textile artificielle ressemblant à la soie” to the Academy of Sciences in 1884. After another five years, during which he was much concerned to reduce the flammability of his material, he felt his process and product were sufficiently developed for public display. In 1889 he was awarded the grand prize at the Paris Exposition.

In the same year he established with the support of capitalists of his hometown, the Scoiété de la Soie de Chardonnet at Besançon and another factory in Satvar, Hungary, in 1904. At the turn of the century the success of his company stimulated investigation of alternative materials and methods for the manufacture of “artifical silk” (later known as rayon), and these subsequently led to the replacement of Chardonnet silk. Chardonnet made some minor contributions in other scientific fields, including studies of the absorption of ultraviolet light, telephony, and the behavior of the eyes of birds. He published no major work but presented all his researches in the Comptes rendus of the Academy of Sciences.


Chardonnet’s address given when he received the Perkin Medal of the Society of Dyers and Colourists is in Journal of the Society of Dyers and Colourists, 30 (1914), 176–179.

Secondary literature includes the Dictionnaire de biographie française, VI, col. 120; and the obituary of Chardonnet by the president of the Academy of Sciences, in Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l’Académie des sciences, 178 (1924), 977–978.

M. Kaufman