Millon, Auguste-Nicolas-Eugène

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(b. Chàlons-sur-Marne, France, 24 April 1812; d. St.-Seine-l’Abbaye, France, 22 October 1867)

chemistry, agronomy, pharmacy.

After completing his secondary education in Chàlons-sur-Marne and working as a teaching assistant at the Collège Rollin in Paris, Millon decided on a medical career in the army. In 1832 he was admitted as a student to the Val-de-Gràce military teaching hospital in Paris, and two years later he qualified for active duty as a surgeon. He served successively in Bitche, Lyons, Algeria, and Metz; in 1836 he received the M.D. from the Paris Faculty of Medicine.

Millon’s long interest in chemistry prompted him, however, to take up military pharmacy rather than surgery and medicine. A brief appointment as préparateur and tutor at the Val-de-Gràce was followed by a tour of duty at several military installations, and finally by a professorship of chemistry at the Val-de-Gràce in 1841. During the next six years Millon established himself as an outstanding chemist and teacher. Probably because of his unorthodox views, he was abruptly transferred in 1847 as professor to the military teaching hospital in Lille, which not only separated him from his students and friends but also seriously disrupted his scientific work. From 1850 until his retirement in 1865, he served as the topranking pharmacist for the French army in Algeria.

The years from 1837 to 1847, scientifically the most important period of Millon’s life, were devoted largely to basic chemistry. His circle of friends and occasional collaborators included Pelouze, J. Reiset, F. Hoefer, Regnault, Louis Laveran, and F.-J.-J. Nicklès. Particularly noteworthy at this time were his studies of the nitrides of bromine, iodine, and cyanogen; of oxides of chlorine and iodine; of reactions of nitric acid on metals and of mercury salts with ammonia; and the investigation with J. Reiset of the nature of catalytic reactions. It was also during this decade that Millon discovered iodine dioxide, chlorites, ethyl nitrate, and the production of potassium iodate. In 1845 he launched the Annuaire de chimie with Reiset (in collaboration with Hoefer and Nicklés), seven volumes of which appeared before it was discontinued in 1851. Millon’s lectures at the Val-de-Gràce formed the basis for his twovolume treatise, èlèments de chimie organique (Paris, 1845–1848).

After 1847 the direction and emphasis of Millon’s scientific work changed, becoming more applied and diffuse. He devoted considerable time to studying wheat, especially its classification, constituents, conservation, and processing. Millon showed in 1848 that urea could be quantitatively analyzed by decomposing it with nitrous acid and determining the amount of carbon dioxide released. In 1849 he published his discovery of a sensitive reagent for detecting proteins made by dissolving mercury in concentrated nitric acid and diluting with water, which proved effective in the presence of tyrosine. Among the varied projects he pursued in Algeria were the extraction of perfumes from Algerian flowers, the chemistry of nitrification, the raising and commerce of leeches, quality control of milk, the study of alcoholic fermentation, and the analysis of mineral water.


I. Original Works. Most of Millon’s work was published in entirety or as extracts in the Comptes rendus… de l’Acadèmie des sciences, often appearing at the same time in the Annales de chimie et de physique. For a chronological list of Millon’s published and unpublished material, see J. Reiset et al., E. Millon, sa vie, ses travaux de chimie et ses études économiques et agricoles sur l’Algérie (Paris, 1870), 321–327. A bibliography of Millon’s articles is in the Royal Soeiety’s Catalogue of Scientific Papers, IV (London, 1870), 393–395; VIII (London, 1879), 407–408.

II. Secondary Literature. See A. Balland, Les travaux de Millon sur les blés (Paris, 1905); H.-P. Faure, E. Millon, notice biographique, lue à la Société d’agriculture, commerce, sciences et arts du département de la Marne, dans la séance publique du 26 aoÛt 1868(Châlons-sur-Marne, 1868); J. R. Partington, A History of Chemistry, IV (London-New York, 1964), 57, 84, 90, 342, 364, 427–429, 603; and J. Reiset et al., E. Millon … (see above).

The centenary of Millon’s death was the occasion for three articles: Jean Delga, “La carrière militaire d’Eugène Millon,” in Revue d’histoire de la pharmacie, 19 (1968), 69–72; Pierre Malangeau, “L’oeuvre scientifique d’Eugène Millon,” ibid., 73–82; andAndré Quevauviller, “À propos du centenaire de la mort de Millon,” ibid., 83–86.

Alex Berman