Skip to main content

Macquer, Pierre Joseph

Macquer, Pierre Joseph

(b. Paris, France, 9 October 1718; d. Paris, 15 February 1784)


Best known as the author of a widely read textbook and of the first chemical dictionary, Macquer made no lasting contributions to chemical theory and discovered few new substances. Nevertheless he was an influential member of the Paris scientific community and did much important but unpublished research behind the scenes as a government scientific adviser. The descendant of a Stuart supporter1 who in 1688 had accompanied James II into exile, he was the elder son of Joseph Macquer and Marie-Anne Caillet. An early interest in science was encouraged by one of his teachers, Charles Le Beau, a well-known historian; and he decided to devote himself to research. However, his parents insisted on his first qualifying in a profession, and he chose medicine. After graduating from the Paris Faculty of Medicine in 1742 he practiced for only a few years, being at one time doctor for the poor of the parishes of St.-Nicolas and St.-Sauveur,2 near his home in the rue St-Sauveur. He studied chemistry under G. F, Roucelle and soon began to do research.

Rouelle had started lecturing at the Jardin du Roi in 1742, and his influence on French chemistry was yet to be felt. Since there were few experienced and able chemists competing for places in the Academy of Sciences, Macquer was elected in 1745, before reading his first published paper, on the solubility in alcohol of different oils. He was hoping to relate the changes that occurred in oils on rectification to the solubilities of various products, but his experiments and theoretical discussion contributed little to this difficult subject. He was on firmer ground in a later investigation of the solubilities of carefully dehydrated inorganic salts in alcohol (1766, 1773); his quantitative results were of value to chemists who used alcohol extraction in the analysis of residues from evaporated mineral waters.

The most important of Macqucr’s early researches was his study in 1746 and 1748 of white arsenic (arsenious oxide), which he found to react with niter (potassium nitrate) to form a previously unknown crystalline salt (potassium arsenate) that was quite different from the compound (potassium arsenite) obtained by dissolving white arsenic in potash. The new salt formed precipitates with metallic salts, and Macquer recognized that in them the metal was combined with the “arsenical part” of his compound. He did not, however, go so far as to assert that arsenic formed an acid although, by heating white arsenic with oil of vitriol (sulfuric acid), he had, in fact, prepared its anhydride as an “arsenical glass” that gave an acid solution in water. The true nature of arsenic acid and its salts was recognized in 1775 by C. W. Scheele.

Pastel and indigo were the only fast blue dyes used before 1749, when Macquer discovered a method of dyeing with Prussian blue, an insoluble substance used as an artists’ pigment. It was prepared by adding potash that had been calcined with animal matter to a solution of alum and green vitriol (ferrous sulfate), and Macquer therefore boiled skeins of flax, cotton, silk, and wool with alum and green vitriol, and dipped them into a solution of the specially treated potash. The specimens were dyed a dull blue, which brightened on rinsing in dilute sulfuric acid and proved to be fast for wool and silk. Macquer then attempted to analyze Prussian blue (1752). Although he did not solve the problem of its constitution, he found that alum was not an essential constituent. Again, his research was later extended by Scheele. These researches on arsenic and Prussian blue were praised by Macquer’s contemporaries, but it was through his books that he became widely known and influenced the development of chemistry.

The first textbook, Élément de chymie théorique, appeared in 1749, when there was a real need for an up-to-date book by a French author; Nicolas Lemery’s Cours de ch,hrnie had not been printed in Paris since 1730 (an edition revised by Baron was not published until 1756), and the anonymous Nouveau cows de chymie (generally attributed to J. B. Senac) had not been printed since 1737. The Nouveau cows included an account of the phlogiston theory, which was being taught by Rouelle in the I740’s, but it is unlikely to have been available to the many people whose interest in chemistry he was stimulating. Macquer wrote his Élémens for people with no previous chemical knowledge. He started with an account of the four elements, air, water, earth, and fire (of which phlogiston was a modification), briefly discussed affinity, and then considered compound substances in order of their increasing complexity, mineral, vegetable, and animal. He was careful not to mention any substance before acquainting the reader with it: for example, acids, alkalis, and salts were described before metals, so in the account of acids their power of dissolving metals was not mentioned. This “synthetic” treatment, as Macquer called it, seems to have been popular with beginners but was of little value in laboratory work, where an experimenter would normally be concerned with the analysis of naturally occurring substances that were compounds or mixtures. Macquer gave a thorough account of compound substances in Élémens de chymie pratique (1751), which was no mere labora- tory manual. The two books were complementary and were reprinted together in 1756, with slight modifications. There were no further editions in France’3 but the combined work enjoyed a great vogue in Britain, where Andrew Reid’s 1758 translation was reprinted as late as 1777-by which time it was badly out of date.

Textbooks are generally written by teachers, but Macquer’s teaching experience began only in 1752, when he was elected professor of pharmacy in the Pans Faculty of Medicine for a year.4 His partnership with Antoine Baume was more lasting. In 1757 they gave a joint course in chemistry that was attended by fifty or sixty people5 and proved to be the first of sixteen annual winter courses. The outline in their Plan d’um cows de chymie ,.. (1757) shows that they followed roughly the same order as in Macquer’s Eiemens, and they demonstrated 2,000 experiments. Their joint research included a study of one of the first specimens of platinum to reach France (1758); they discovered no new chemical properties but showed that small portions could be melted with the aid of a powerful burning lens.

By 1773, when the joint courses ceased, Macquer had started lecturing at the Jardin du Roi. L. C. Bourdelin had been professor of chemistry since 1743, but his health was poor and up to 1769 the lectures were often given by P. J. Malouin. Buffon, the intendant, then granted Macquer the reversion of the chair. He gave his first course in 1770 and, after Bourdelin’s death in 1777, became the titular professor and continued to lecture every summer until 1783. The professor’s lectures were always followed by experiments, performed and explained by the demonstrator. H. M. Rouelle (brother of Macquer’s chemistry teacher) had been demonstrator since 1768, and Macquer seems to have left him to plan the course, for the vegetable and animal kingdoms were treated before the mineral kingdom, as in Rouclle’s own private course. When A. L. Brongniart (1742-1804) Succeeded Rouelle, Macquer revised his course and from 1779 taught the mineral kingdom first, as in his Élémens and in a private course given by Brongniart. Macquer occasionally introduced new material into his lectures hut, surprisingly, said little about the chemistry of gases, explaining in an introductory lecture that he preferred not to deal with modern and controversial topics in a short course intended for beginners. His lectures were praised by Condorcet, who attended them, but his audiences were deprived of an up-to-date account of important new developments.

Macquer’s principal book, the Dictionnaire de chrmie (1766), was one of a series that included J. C. Valmont de Bomare’s Dictionnaire raisonné universel cl’histoire naturally (1764) and an anonymous Diction-naire portatif c/es arts et métiers (1766) compiled by Macquer’s brother Philippe.6 Like the latter, Macquer’s work also appeared anonymously, because Macquer had been commissioned to write it hastily and was worried about his reputation.7 Some articles to which he gave cross-references do not, in fact, appear, but he need not have worried, for the Dictionnoire was an immediate success. It was reprinted in 1766 and again in 1769, and Macquer soon started work on an enlarged and revised edition which was published-no longer anonymously-in 1778. There were several Swiss editions, and German, English, Danish, and Italian translations.

The Dictionnaire contained about 500 articles in alphabetical order, ranging in length from two-line definitions to long essays like that on “salt,” which filled more than seventy pages. Most articles were revised in the second edition, and Macquer added some new ones, notably “Gas,” a 168-page account of a topic that hardly existed when he was writing the first edition.

In the preface of 1766 Macquer confessed that when asked to write a chemical dictionary–for which there was no precedent–he had misgivings because he thought that all parts of chemistry were interdependent and also that the subject did not seem suited to alphabetical treatment. However, he had come to see certain advantages–the dictionary had taken the form of a collection of essays and therefore could be studied by each reader in the order he preferred; and, while listing topics in alphabetical order, Macquer had thought of some that might not otherwise have occurred to him. Cross-references were freely given in both editions, and the utility of the second was greatly increased by the inclusion of a subject index of more than 600 pages. In his 1778 preface Macquer stated clearly that the book was intended not for beginners but for those who had attended a course of lectures and had read a textbook, and he suggested the order in which such a student should read about 280 of the main articles. Essays on general theoretical topics were to be followed by those on the mineral kingdom, and then by articles on the vegetable and animal kingdoms-the ordering of the Élémens and of his later courses.

Like most of his contemporaries, Macquer accepted the four-element theory of matter and expounded on it in his books and lectures, but he constantly tried to reconcile it with new discoveries. He followed Boer-haave in believing that earths such as lime and silica were modifications of the pure elementary earth which, he thought, must be a hard, transparent, crystalline substance. In 1766 he identified it with diamond; but in 1772, in collaboration with Lavoisier and others, he showed that diamond was combustible, and so by 1778 he had concluded that pure rock crystal was the element. A metal was composed of a kind of earth (the calx) combined with phlogiston (which in 1749 he regarded as elementary fire in combination with some other principle) and possibly also with the mercurial earth of Becher and Stahl. But by 1766 he had serious doubts about the mercurial earth, for most calxes could be converted to metal by the addition of phlogiston alone, in the form of charcoal. He therefore concluded that a metal was composed only of calx and phlogiston. It was difficult to expel the last traces of phlogiston by heating, and Macquer thought that if this could be achieved all metals might be found to contain the same earth, which would open up the possibility of transmutation of metals. Macquer also made the perceptive suggestion that mineral earths like lime and magnesia were of essentially the same nature as metallic calxes8 and might one day be combined with phlogiston to form new metals. In 1773, with other chemists of the Academy, he used a large burning glass to heat magnesia and alumina with ivory black, a form of charcoal; this experiment may have been an attempt to combine them with phlogiston.

When the second edition of the Dictionnaire was written, Lavoisier was challenging the phlogiston theory, but in 1778 the antiphlogistic theory was still far from complete, and Maequer was able to suggest a compromise. In 1773 he had praised Lavoisier’s early experiments on gases,9 and he now agreed that vital air (oxygen) was absorbed during combustion and calcination. He believed this effect to be accompanied by the emission of phlogiston from the combustible or metal. He now identified phlogiston with light and still regarded it as a modification of elementary fire; he did not think of heat as a material substance but preferred the Baconian theory that it was a phenomenon caused by the motion of particles of matter. Lavoisier’s discovery of the composition of water in 1783 greatly strengthened the antiphlogistic theory, and his calori metric researches with Laplace tended to support the material theory of heat. In December 1783, when discussing C. L. Morozzo’s experiments on calcination, Macquer said that on this subject Lavoisier had “an absolutely new idea, to which he has already given much probability by many fine experiments.”.10 Soon afterward Maequer was reported to be preparing a new edition of the Diction-mire, with some revised articles,11 and it seems likely that he was very near to accepting the antiphlogistic theory just before his death.

The compromise theory proposed by Maequer in 1778 resembled one advocated by L. B. Guyton de Morveau with whom he corresponded regularly. He welcomed Guyton’s reform of chemical nomenclature in 1782 for he had himself criticized the old unsystematic nomenclature as early as 1749, although he offered only tentative proposals for reform and generally retained the old names in his books. He was, however, responsible for reintroducing Van Helmonfs word “gas,” for he was reluctant to describe as an “air” any substance that differed from the air of the atmosphere.

Macquer’s books helped to spread knowledge of chemical affinity. While admitting that progress in chemistry could have led to its extension, he reprinted E. F. Geoffroy’s affinity table of 1718 unaltered in the Élémens, arguing that it included all the principal affinities;12 he did, however, discuss criticisms to which it had been subjected and added some new ones. In 1749 he believed that there was an affinity between two substances when they resembled each other, but In 1766 he defined affinity simply as the tendency of constituent or integrant parts of substances to combine and as the force that makes them adhere when united. He did not speculate about the causes of affinity but referred his readers to the works of Newton, Keill, and others who had attempted to illuminate this obscure subject. Both the Élémens and the Dietionnaire contained sets of propositions showing the ways in which affinity could manifest itself: simple affinity, when two parts of the same substance adhered or two substances combined to form a new one; and various kinds of complex affinity, when, for example, a compound of two components was decomposed by a third substance that had a greater affinity for one of them, or when double decomposition took place between two compounds, each of two components. These distinctions had been recognized by Geoffrey and others, but Macquer expressed them systematically for the first time.

A conscientious and respected member of the Academy of Sciences, Macquer served as its director in 1774. Although only briefly a practicing physician, he had become interested in the applications of chemistry to medicine, and in 1776 was a founding member of the Société Royal dc Médicine. He prepared many reports on memoirs and books submitted to these learned societies, and from 1750 examined books on chemistry, medicine, and natural history in his capacity as a royal censor. He became even more deeply involved in literary work in 1768, when he succeeded J, H. Maçquart as a scientific and medical member of the editorial board of the Journal des sçavans,, a state-owned monthly journal that published book reviews and occasional original memoirs.13 Maequer’s importance in the scientific life of Paris was therefore greater than is indicated by his few published papers, which were mainly concerned with applications of chemistry; his theoretical discussions and some original experimental work were included in his books.

With J. Hellot and M. Tillet he carefully studied the ancient method of assaying silver and gold by cupellation (1763); they standardized the procedure to obtain consistent results and disproved the old belief that silver was formed during the process by transmutation of lead. He investigated rubber— recently introduced from South America—and found that it dissolved in rectified ether and could be formed into flexible tubes (1768); but he was unsuccessful in his efforts to make fiint glass (1773).

Dyeing and porcelain manufacture were the techniques that benefited most from Macquer’s researches. After his success with Prussian blue, he was appointed to assist Hellot as government inspector of the dyeing industries. A leading silk dyer who allowed him lo visit his workshop explained the processes, and this led to the publication of Macquer’s Art de la teinture en soie (1763) in the Academy’s series Descriptions des Arts et Métiers. In 1768 he found that cochineal, a scarlet dye previously used only for wool, could be applied to silk with the aid of a mordant of tin dissolved in aqua regia. He also became interested in the theory of dyeing. Hellot advocated a mechanical theory, believing that particles of dye were retained in the pores of the fabric. While not entirely denying this, Macquer concluded in the Dielionnaire (1778) that there was adhesion, or perhaps even chemical combination, among the fabric, the mordant, and the dye. This chemical theory was later elaborated by Berthollet.

From 1751 to 1766 Hellot was scientific adviser to the Royal Porcelain Works at Sèvres, and Macquer assisted him for much of that time. Most of his technical research was not published, so there is only fragmentary information about his work on ceramics. With Baumé he examined more than 800 specimens of clay from many parts of France and studied the effect of heating them with various earthy substances in a powerful charcoal furnace of his own design (1758). The much-admired oriental porcelain had been imitated at Meissen in 1715, but the secret eluded the French until after 1765, when the necessary kaolin was found near Limoges. From August to November 1768 Macquer traveled in the southwest14 and verified the presence of large deposits, and within a year the craftsmen at Sèvres developed the necessary techniques and produced porcelain as good as any in the world.

After Hellot’s death in 1766 Macquer succeeded him as inspector of dyeing and, with E. Mignot de Montigny, as a scientific adviser at Sevres.15 His influence on French technology may have been through his post as consultant to the government Bureau de Commerce, which controlled French trade and industry.16 This well-paid post was no sinecure, and in 1781 Macquer told Bergman that much of his time was spent investigating problems, some of them secret, concerning the saltpeter and other industries as well as pottery and dyeing.17

Commissioned by the government to write a comprehensive treatise on dyeing.18 by the end of 1783 he found it necessary to ask for an assistant to relieve him of some of his work for the Journal des sçavans.19 His health was already failing, and he died a few weeks later. He left a widow, whom he had married in 1748, and two daughters.20


1. In their éloges of Macquer (see Bibiography), Condorcet described him as descended from a noble Scottish family, and Vicq d’Azyr said that his great-grandfather accompanied James I (presumably a misprint for James II) to France. Evidence produced by D.McKie, “The Descent of Pierre Joseph Macquer,” in Nature,163 (1949, 627, suggests that he was descended from an Irish family, the Maguires, barons of Enniskillen.

2. Macquer disclosed his motives for stydying medicine in the draft of a letter to D.F.R.Mesnard de Chousy, 24 Mar.1774, Bibliothéque Nationale, MS francais 9134, fol 100. He referred to his work as médecin des pauvres maladesin an unpublished memoir on the acidental poisoning of wine and milk with lead and copper, Bib. Nat., MS français 9132, fol. 112.

3. In a letter to T.O.Bergman, 18 July 1772, Macquer said that he was working on new eds. of both the Élémens and the Dictionnaire; see F. Carlid and J. Nordstrn, eds., Torbern Bergman’s Foreign Correspondence, I (Stockholm, 1965), 243. An incomplete MS of a revised ed. of élémens, which internal evidence shows to have been written after 1768, is Bib, Nat., MSS francais 9131, fols. 1–18 (chs. 1–2, pp. 1–36), and 9133, fols. 216–254 (chs. 3–5, pp. 37–113). This rev, ed, was never completed. A 1775 ed. mentioned by J.R. Partington, A History of Chemistry, III (London, 1962). 80 seems not to exist.

4. He is named as professor of pharmacy in Almanach royal(Paris, 1753), 347. At this time a new professor was elected each year.

5. The attendance is recorded in a note by Macquer, Bib.Nat., MS fran÷ais 9134, fols. 131–132.

6. For an account of Philippe Macquer (1720–1770), advocate, historian, and man of letters, see the anonymous “Éloge de M.Macquer, avocat en parlement,” in Le necrologe des hommes célèbres de la France (Paris, 1771), 187–206. His Dictionnaire portatif des arts et métiers is discussed by J.Proust, “Deux encyclopédistes hors de l’Encyclopédie:Philippe Macquer et l’abbé Jaubert,”in Revue d’histoire des sciences,11 (1958), 330–336. At one time he edited the scientific part of the weekly Avant-coureur; see a letter from P.J. Macquer to Begman, 22 Feb. 1768, Carlid and Nordstrom, op, cit., 230.

7. He explained why the Dictonnairewas published anony-mously in a leter to Bergman, 22, Feb, in Carlid and Nordström.cit., 229.

8. Bergman later suggested that baryta might be the calx of an unknown metal; see W.A. Smeaton, in Dictionary of Scientific Biography, II (1970), 8. Lavoisier expressed the same idea i antiphlogistic terms, when he conjectured that all earths might be metals oxidized to a certain degree (Lavoisier, Traité élémentaire de chimie[Paris, 1789], 195).

9. See W.C. Alphers, “P.J. Macquer et le rapport sur les Opscules physiques et chimiques Lavoisier,” in Actes du XII’ Congr‘s international d’historie des siences,VI (Paris, 1971), 5–9.

10. Review by Macquer of Lettre de M. le Comte Morozzo ä M. Macquer, sur la décoposition du gas méphitique & du gas nitreus(Turin, 1783), inJournal des scavans(1783), 864–867 (quoted on p.867).

11. M. Landriani to Bergman, 13 Feb. 1784, in Carlid and Nordström, op.cit., 201.

12. The affinity table in Macquer’s Élémensis an exact copy of Geoffroy’s; careful comparison shows that it was printed from the same copper plate as that in Geoffroy’s posthumous Trauté de matière médicale, I (Paris, 1743). Perhaps it was because this plate was available that Macquer did not drqw up a new table. He included no affinity table in the Dictonnaire.

13. Macquer’s appointment as editor is mentioned in the anonymous “Éloge de Jacques-Henri Macquart, “in Journal des s÷avans(1768), 635–638. For the history of the Journal des sçavans, see E.Hatin, Historie politique et littéraire de la presse en France, II (Paris, 1859), 151–217; a brief account is in Hatin’sBibliographie historique et critique de la presse française (Paris, 1866), 28–32.

14. Letters from Macquer to his brother and other correspondents, written from the southwest between 23 Aug. and 4 Nov. 1768, are in Bib.Nat.,MSS fran÷ais 9134, fols. 86–96; 9135, fols. 65–96.

15. Macquer and De Montigny (d.1782) are described as commissaires de l’Académie Royale des Sciences, pour les recherches in the official list of personnel at the Manufacture de Porcelains de France ä Sève [sic] that was published in the Almanach royalfrom 1776 onward. There is no entry under this heading in earlier years.

16. See E. Lelong’s “Introduction,” in Pierre Bonnassieux,ed., Conseil de commerce et Bureau de Commerce, Inventaire analytique des procès-verbaux(Paris, 1900), xxvii-xxviii.

17. Macquer to Bergman, 7 July 1781, in Carlid and Nordström, op.cit., 253–254.

18. Macquer to Bergman, 7 Mar. 1782, ibid.,255. The proposed work, described in an eight-page prospectus (see below), was never completed.

19. Correspondence concerning Macquer’s request is in Bib.Nat.,MSS francais 9134, fols. 116, 120, and 12306, fols. 66.78.

20. Macquer’s brother Philippe (see note 6) had died in 1770. Another relation, who died in 1782, was a cousin called Macquer (other names unknown). He was coauthor, with H.G. Duchesne, of Manuel du naturaliste(Paris, 1770), frequently but incorrectly attributed to P.J.Macquer. Information about the cousin is given by W.C.Ahlers in his doctoral thesis (see Bibliography).


I. Original Works. Macquer’s Élémens de chymie théorique(Paris, 1749) was reprinted with only minor alternations as a new ed., in 1753. Élémens de chymie practique,(Paris, 1751), appeared as a 2nd 1756, and Chymie théoriquewas again reprinted then. The 1756 ed. were together translated into English by Andrew Reid as Elements of the Theory and Practice of Chemistry,2 vols. (London, 1758). D.McKie, inEndeavour,16 (1957), 135,records 4 subsequent English eds.published in London (1764;1775) and Edinburgh(1768;1777).German (1752, 1758), Italian (1781), and Russian (1791) translations are recorded by H.C. Bolton, A select Bibliography of Chemistry(Washington, 1893), 646. Earlier Russian (1774-1775) and later German (1768) ed. and a Dutch trans. (1773, 1775), are mentioned by J.Ferguson, Bibliotheca chemica,II (Glasgow, 1906), 60, but he often gives incorrect dates.

Macquer and Antoine Baumé gave a detailed account of their joint lecture course in Plan d’un cours de chymie, expérimentale et raisonnée, avec an discours historique sur la chymie(Paris, 1757). Macquer’s Art de la teinture en soie(Paris, 1763), was published in the series of Descriptions des Arts et Métiers of the Académic Royale des Sciences. An English trans. appeared of The Art of Dying [sic] Wool, Silk and Cotton. Translated from the French of M.Hellot, M.Macquer and M.Le Pileur d’Apligny(London, 1789), 263–381, and on pp. 233–339 of the reprint (London, 1901). The book was also translated into Spanish (Madrid, 1771), German (Leipzig, 1779), and Arabic (Boulāq, 1823). Macquer’s method of dyeing silk with cochineal, published in the Mémoires of the Academy for 1768 (see below), was also described in a pamphlet, Méthode pour teindre la soie en plusieurs nuances de rouge vif de cochenille et aufres couleurs, par M. Macquer (Paris, 1769), His projected general treatise on dyeing was … described in Prospectus et plan (Tune description générale de l’art de la teinture… par M. Macquer (Paris, 1782).

Macquer was coauthor, with J. M. F. de Lassone, E. Gourley de la Motte, A. L. de Jussieu, J. B. Carburi, and L. C. Cadet, of a short medical work, Traitement contre le ténia ou ver solitaire, pratiqué ä Morat en Suisse, examiné et éprouvé ä Paris (Paris, 1775; repr. 1776); summarized in Journal des s÷avans (1776), 606–611; English trans, by S. Foart Simmons, An Account of the Tenia or Long Tape Worm … (London, 1777).

The breadth of Macquer’s interests is shown by the full title of his Dictionnaire de chrmie, contenant la théorie & la pratique de cette science, son application it la physique, ä l’histoire naturelle, ä la médecine & ä l’économie animale, first published anonymously in 2 small octavo vols. (Paris, 1766); a reimpression, with slightly different pagination, appeared later in 1766 and another in 1769. There was also a Swiss printing (3 vols., Yverdon, 1767). The words à l’économie animate in the title were replaced by aux arts dépendans de la chymie in the 2nd ed., which was published, with Macquer named as author, in both octavo in 4 vols. (Paris, 1778) and quarto in 2 vols. (Paris, 1778). A 3-vol. octavo reprint, incorrectly dated 1777 was not published before 1778. There were also 3 Swiss printings (Yverdon, 1779; “en Suisse,” 1779-1780; Neuchâtel, 1789). James Keir’s English trans., A Dictionary of Chemistry, first appeared in 2 vols. (London, 1771); a 2nd English ed., required before the 2nd French ed. was ready, contains supplementary material by Keir (3 vols., London, 1777). The 1st ed. was also translated into German and Danish; the 2nd ed. into German and Italian. Full details of the translations are given by J. R. Partington, A History of Chemistry, III (London, 1962), 81–82.

The following memoirs by Macquer appeared in the Histoire [H.] et Mémoires [ M.] de l’Académie Royale des Sciences (the date of publication in parenthesis follows the nominal date); “Sur la cause de la différente dissolubilite des huiles dans l’esprit de vin,” M., 1745 (1749), 9–25; “Recherches sur l’arsenic. Premier mémoire,” M., 1746 (1751), 233–236; “Observations sur la chaux et sur le platre,” M., 1747 (1752), 678–696; “Second memoire sur l’arsenic,” M., 1748 (1752), 35–50; “Mémoire sur une nouvelle espéce de teinture bleue, dans laquelle il n’entre ni pastel ni indigo,” M., 1749 (1753), 255–265; “Examen chymique du bleu de Prusse,” M., 1752 (1756), 60–77; “Mémoire sur une nouvelle méthode de M. le Comte de la Garaye pour dissoudre les métaux,” M., 1755 (1761), 25–35; “Recherehes sur la nature de la teinture mercurielle de M. le Comte de la Garaye. Premier memoire,” M., 1755 (1761), 531–546 (there was no further memoir on this topic); “Mémoire sur un nouveau métal connu sous le nom d’or blanc ou de platine,” M., 1758 (1763), 119–133, written with A. Baumé; “Mémoire sur les argiles et sur la fusibilité de cette espéce de terre avec les terres calcaires,” M., 1758 (1763), 155–176; “Examen chimique de l’eau de la rivière d’Yvette,” M., 1762 (1764), 376–380, written with J, Hellot; “Mémoire sur les essais des matieres d‘or et d’argent,” M., 1763 (1766), 1–14, written with J. Hellot and M. Tillet; “Memoire sur Paction d’un feu violent de charbon, appliqué ä plusieurs terres, pierres et chaux métalliques,” M., 1767 (1770), 298–314; “Sur une source mineral trouve a Vaugirard,” H., 1768 (1770), 69–75, written with S. F. Morand and L, C. Cadet; “Mémoire sur un moyen de teindre la soie en un rouge vif de cochenille et de lui faire prendre plusieurs autres couleurs plus belles et plus solides qu’on a faites jusqu’ä présent,” M., 1768 (1770), 82–90; “Mémoire sur un moyen de dissoudre la resine caoutchouc connue présentement sous le nom de résine élastique de Cayenne, et de la faire reparoitre avec toutes ses qualités,” M., 1768 (1770), 209–217; “Recherches sur la composition du flint-glass, avec des vues pour le perfectionner,” M., 1773 (1777), 502-511; “Premier essai du grand verre ardent de M. Trudaine établi au jardin de l’Infante au commencement du mois d’octobre de l’année 1774,” M., 1774 (1778), 62–72, written with J. C. P. Trudaine de Montigny, L. C. Cadet, A. L. Lavoisier and M. J. Brisson; and “Analyse de l’eau du lac Asphaltite,” M., 1778 (1781), 69–72, written with A. L. Lavoisier and B. G. Sage.

Macquer’s research on the solubility of salts in alcohol was sall published as “Mémoire sur la différente dissolubilite des sels neutres dans l’esprit de vin, contenant des observations particulières sur plusieurs de ces sels,” in Melanges de philosophie et de mathématique de la Société Royale de Turin, 3 (1766), 1–30; and “Second mémoire … de ces sels,” ibid., 5 (1770-1773), 173–190; the first memoir was reprinted in Introduction aux observations sur la physique, 1 (1777), 461–472, 559–568; and the second in Observations sur la physique, 9 (1777), 182–193. Other memoirs by Macquer include “Lettre … au sujet des expériences qui se font au foyer de la grande lentille ä liqueur de M. de Trudaine,” in Journal des sçavans (1776), 561–563; “Observations sur la dissolution des sédimens et incrustations pierreuses que forme Purine dans les vaisseaux oú elle sejourne,” ibid., 613–616; “MéMemoire sur les savons acides, et sur les avantages qu’on en pourroit retirer dans la pratique de la médecine,” in Mémoires de la Société royale de médecine (1776), 379–386; “Réflexions sur la magnésie du sel d’Epsom,” in Histoire de la Société royale de medecine (1779), 235–243. Minor reports written by Macquer jointly with other academicians are not included in this bibliography; details of those of which Lavoisier was a coauthor are in D. 1. Duveen and H. S. Klickstein, A Bibliography... of Lavoisier (London, 1954).

Eleven bound vols, of Macquer’s papers are at the Bibliothéque Nationals Paris: MSS fran÷ais 9127–9135 contain MSS of published and unpublished books, memoirs, and lecture notes as well as drafts of letters written by him; MSS francais 12305–12306 contain letters received by him from many correspondents. An inventory and index of these vols, (except MS 9135, which contains documents relating to porcelain), compiled in 1943 by Paul M. Bondois, is in Bib. Nat,, MS francs, nouvelle acquisition 13260; it is useful but not completely accurate. A small collection of Macquer’s correspondence is at the library of the Museum National d’Histoire Narurelle, Paris, MS 283; some of his notebooks and other documents concerning porcelain are in the archives of the Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres, Y 57–60. In a doctoral thesis (see below) W. C. Ahlers lists the principal contents of all these MSS and draws attention to Macquer material in other French archives. The eighteen letters from Macquer to Bergman at the archives of the University of Uppsala are printed with an additional letter in G. Carltd and J. Nordstrom, eds., Torbern Bergman’s foreign Correspondence, I (Stockholm, 1965), 229–255, 437–438.

II. Secondary Literature. The best contemporary account of Macquer’s life and work is F. Vice d’Azyr, “Éloge de M. Macquer,” inMoistoire de la Société rotate de médicine for 1782–1783 (1787), pp. 69–94, repr., but without the valuable footnotes, in his Eloges histariques I (Paris, 1805), 277–303. Less informative is Condorcet, “Élogc de M. Macquer,” in Histoire de l’Académie Royale des Sciences for 1784 (1787), pp. 20–30, rear. in his Oeuvres, III (Paris, 1847), 125–138. A recent study, containing much information from MS sources, is the unpublished doctoral thesis by Willem C. Ahlers, “Un chimiste du XVIIIe siècle. Pierre Joseph Macquer (1718–1784). Aspects de sa vie et de son oeuvre,” Université de Paris, Faculté des Letteres et Sciences Humaines, thése de troisieme cycle, 1969. L. J. M. Coleby, The Chemical Studies of P. J. Macquer (London, 1938), is a convenient source of information about Macquer’s published work. Useful bibliographical data are given by D. McKie, “Macquer, the First Lexicographer of Chemistry,” in Endeavor,16 (1957), 133é136. Macquer’s joint lecture course with Bourné is described by R. Davy,Lapothkaire Antoine Bourneé (Cahors, 1955), 38–40; and the text of their agreement is printed in J. P. Constant, Uenseignement dela chime au Jardin Royal des Plantes de Paris (Ca Hors, 1952), 65–69. Contant says little about Macquer’s lectures; a short account is given by W. A. Smeaton, “P. J. Macquer’s Course of Chemistry at the Jardin du Roi,” inAces du Xe Congéres international d’histoire des sciences, Ithaca, 1962 (Paris, 1964), 847–849.

Macquer’s views on the nature of the elements are discussed by W. A. Seaton, “Macquer on the Composition of Metals and the Artificial Production of Gold and Silver,” inChymiat11 (1966), 81–88. A good account of his ideas on affinity is given by A. M. Duncan, “Some Theoretical Aspects of Eighteenth-century Tables of Affinity,” in Annals of Science,18 (1962), 177–194, 217–232. His contributions to the reform of nomenclature are discussed by M. P. Crosland,Historical Studies in the language of Chemistry (London, 1962), 120–122, 134–138.

The importance of Macquer and Baumée’s research on platinum is assessed by D. McDonald,A History of Platinum (London, 1960), 32–34; and the analysis of an iron ore by Macquer and E. Mignot de Montigny is described by R. G. Neville, “‘Observations sur la mine de fer de Bagory’ An Unpublished Manuscript by P. J. Macquer,“inChymia,8 (1962), 89–96. Macquer’s technical research is set in its historical context by H. Guerlac, “Some French Antecedents of the Chemical Revolution,” in Chymia, 5 (1959), 73–112; further information is given by W. C. Ahlers, “P. J. Macquer, pionnier de la recherche fondamentale dans le domaine de Pindustrie chimique,” inActes du XIIIe Congrés international d’histoire des sciences, Moscow |Leningrad, 1971 (in press).

References to additional secondary sources are given in the notes above.

W. A. Smeaton

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Macquer, Pierre Joseph." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . 22 Sep. 2018 <>.

"Macquer, Pierre Joseph." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . (September 22, 2018).

"Macquer, Pierre Joseph." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . Retrieved September 22, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.