Fritzsche, Carl Julius

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Fritzsche, Carl Julius

(b. Neustadt, Saxony, Germany, 29 October 1808; d. Dresden, Germany, 20 June 1871)


Fritzsche was originally a pharmacist, served as assistant to the chemist Mitscherlich, and obtained the doctorate in botany at Berlin in 1833. He immigrated to Russia in 1834 and became manager of H. W. Struve’s mineral-water works in St. Peterburg. He was elected a member of the Academy of Sciences in 1838, an associate in 1844, and full academician in 1852.

Fritzsche began a long series of researches on indigo in 1839 when he observed the action of nitric acid on indigo. In 1840 he distilled a mixture of indigo and potassium hydroxide; he correctly analyzed the base that he obtained and named it Anilin after the Spanish word for indigo, añil, derived in turn from the Arabic an-nil. Erdmann, editor of the Journal für praktische Chemie, recognized that Fritzsche’s aniline was identical to Krystallin, which Unverdorben had prepared from indigo in 1826. Fritzsche began an association with Zinin of the University of Kazan—ultimately resulting in their sharing a laboratory at the St. Petersburg Academy—when he demonstrated in 1842 that Benzidam, which Zinin had obtained by reducing Mitscherlich’s nitrobenzene with ammonium sulfide, was identical to aniline. In his studies of coal tar, Hofmann showed that the compounds of Unverdorben, Fritzsche, and Zinin were identical to Kyanol, which Runge had found in coal tar in 1834. Hofmann preferred the name, aniline, and he introduced a new method in 1845 for preparing it by using zinc and hydrochloric acid in reducing nitrobenzene.

Fritzsche continued his work on indigo, isolating and naming crysanilic and anthranilic acids. He found that when anthranilic acid is heated above its melting point it decomposes quantitatively into aniline and carbon dioxide. He also investigated uric and purpuric acids; osmium, iridium, vanadium, and their compounds; potassium bromate; and nitrogen oxides. He discovered ortho- and para-nitrophenols; compounds of hydrocarbons and picric acid; and gray tin. Fritzsche, who never became a classroom teacher, devoted his life to research and travel. Although stricken with paralysis, he finished his investigation of the dimorphism of tin shortly before he returned to Germany, where he died.


I. Original Works. Fritzsche’s first publication on indigo was “Vorläufige Notiz über ein neues Zersetzungsproduct des Indigo durch Salpetersäure,” in Journar für praktische Chemie, 16 (1839), 507–508, and was followed by his announcement of the discovery of aniline in “Ueber das Anilin, ein neues Zersetzungsproduct des Indigo,” ibid., 20 (1840), 423–457. His discovery of crysanilic and anthranilic acids was reported in “Ueber die Producte der Einwirkung des Kali auf das Indigblau,” ibid., 23 (1841), 67–83. For lists of other important papers see the Butlerov and Sheibley articles listed below.

II. Secondary Literature. For biographical details and discussions of Fritzsche’s contributions to chemistry, see Alexander M. Butlerov, “Carl Julius Fritzsche,” in Berichte der Deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft, 5 (1872), 132–136, also printed in Journal of the Chemical Society, 25 (1872), 245–248; Henry M. Leicester, “N. N. Zinin, An Early Russian Chemist,” in Journal of Chemical Education, 17 (1940), 303–306; and Fred E. Sheibley, “Carl Julius Fritzsche and the Discovery of Anthranilic Acid, 1841,” ibid., 20 (1943), 115–117.

A. Albert Baker, Jr.