Frémy, Edmond

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Frémy, Edmond

(b. Versailles, France, 28 February 1814; d. Paris, France, 2 February 1894)


Frémy began his career at the École Polytechnique as assistant to Pelouze and succeeded him as professor in 1846. He also became professor at the Museum d’Histoire Naturelle when Gay-Lussac died in 1850 and was elected its director after Chevreul retired in 1879.

Frémy’s first project was to continue Pelouze’s studies of iron oxides, and he expanded them to include oxides of chromium, tin, and antimony that form salts with alkalies in the same way as manganese. In 1835 he published a memoir in the Annales de chimie on the splitting of fats by sulfuric acid, a process that was adopted by French industry. From then on, Frémy pursued scientific investigations as professor and industrial work as consultant (later as administrator of the Compagnie de Saint-Gobin). He proposed improvements in the chamber process for making sulfuric acid (low temperature and ample air and water), and he introduced the residue from burning pyrites as the raw material for iron production. From research on the setting of hydraulic cement, Frémy proceeded to the synthesis of rubies by heating alumina with potassium chromate and barium fluoride.

At the museum, from 1850 until 1879, he sought to prove the transformation of plant materials, especially “vasculose” (cellulose), into coal by way of lignite and ulmic acid.

Together with Pelouze, Frémy published a textbook that saw several editions until 1865; then he organized the collaboration of professors and industrialists on a chemical encyclopedia, which appeared in ninety-one parts between 1882 and 1901.

Paul Dehérain, his biographer and former student, said of Frémy: “He disliked theories, did not know them well, and thought them dangerous.”


Frémy’s main work was Encyclopedié chimique, publiée sous la direction de M. Frémy... par une reunion d’anciens élèves de l’École Polytechnique, de professeurs et d’industriels, 10 vols. (Paris, 1882–1901). He wrote the “Discours préliminaire” (1882) and chs. in several vols., especially vol. V, Applications de chimie inorganique; see “Généralités sur quelques industries chimiques” (1883), in vol. V, sec. I, pt. 2, in which he summarizes much of his own work and emphasizes its originality. He was coauthor, with T.J. Pelouze, of Traité de chimie générale, 6 vols. (Paris, 1854–1857).

A biography is P. -P. Dehérain, “Edmond Frémy,” in Revue générale des sciences (18 Feb. 1894), 20–31.

Eduard Farber

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