Pelouze, Théophile-Jules

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(b. Valognes, Manche, France, 26 February 1807; d. Paris, France, 31 May 1867), chemistry.

Pelouze was the son of Edmond Pelouze, whose interests in industrial technology and invention were reflected in many publications. Pelouze decided originally on a career in pharmacy and after serving apprenticeships in pharmacies in La Fère and Paris, he was appointed to a hospital pharmacy internship at the Salpêtrière in Paris. An accidental meeting with Joseph-Louis Gay-Lussac, whose student and laboratory assistant he later became, changed the course of his life. Pelouze, undaunted by financial hardship, so impressed Gay-Lussac by his zeal and talents that Gay-Lussac became a lifelong patron and friend of the young chemist. In 1830 Pelouze secured a post teaching chemistry in Lille and shortly thereafter competed successfully for the position of assayer at the Paris mint. Further recognition and success came rapidly: he was elected to the Académie des Sciences (1837); he taught and was professor of chemistry at the École Polytechnique (1831–1846) and at the Collège de France (1831–1850); he was a member of the Paris Municipal Council of the Mint(1848); he was a member of the Paris Municipal Council (1849); and he succeeded Gay-Lussac as consulting chemist at the Saint-Gobain glassworks (1850).

Beginning in 1830, Pelouze quickly established himself as an outstanding analytical and experimental chemist. His early investigations included studies of salicin (1830), with Jules Gay-Lussac; sugar beet (1831); fermentation (1831), with Frédéric Kuhlmann; conversion of hydrocyanic acid into formic acid; and decomposition of ammonium formate into hydrocyanic acid and water (1831). Later he investigated pyrogallic acid (1833); ethyl phosphoric acid (1833); discovered ethyl cyanide (1834); and found the correct formula for potassium dinitrosulfite (1835). In 1836 Pelouze and Liebig, with whom Pelouze had worked in Giessen, published a long memoir dealing with a number of organic substances, including their discovery of oenanthic ester and the corresponding acid. Noteworthy, too, were Pelouze’s discovery of nitrocellulose (1838); oxidation of borneol to obtain camphor (1840); synthesis of butyrin (1843), with Amédée Gélis; production of glycerophosphoric acid (1845); work on curare (1850), with Claude Bernard; and investigation of American petroleum (1862–1864), with Auguste Cahours. Interested mainly in empirical facts, Pelouze was, unfortunately, indifferent to the seminal chemical theories of his time.

In Paris, Pelouze founded the most important private laboratory school of chemistry in France. He trained many students and made his laboratory facilities available for the personal research of Bernard and other French and foreign chemists.


I. Original Works. Pelouze published at least 90 papers, alone or with other eminent chemists, most of which appeared in Annals de chimie et de physique or in Comptes rendus. . . de l’Académie des sciences and were repr. in other periodicals. For listings of these articles, see A. Goris, et al., Centenaire de l’internat en pharmacie des hôpitaux et hospices civils de Paris (Paris 1920), 531–532; Poggendorff, II , 394–396, and III , 1015; and Royal Society Catalogue of Scientific Papers, IV , 810–814, and VIII , 583.

A major work by Pelouze was his Traité de chimie générale, 3 vols, and atlas (Pairs 1848–1850), written with E.Frémy. In later eds. the work was expanded, and it also appeared in a number of abridged versions.

II. Secondary Literture. On Pelouze and his work, see J.-B. Dumas, Discours et éloges, académiques, I (Paris 1885), 127–198; C. von Martius, “Nekrolog auf Th. Julius Pelouze,” in Neues Repertorium für Pharmacie, 17 (1868), 506–510; J. R.Partington, A History of Chemistry, IV (London-New York, 1964), 395 and passim; Warren De la Rue, “Proceedings of the Chemical Society,” in Journal of the Chemical Society, 21 (1868), xxv–xxix; and Marc Tiffeneau, in A. Goris et at., Centeaire de l’internat en pharmacie des hôpitaux civils de Paris, (Paris 1920), 615

For Pelouze’s relations with Bernard, see Joseph Schiller, Claude, Bernard et les probèlms scientifiques de son temps (Pairs 1967), 63–64.

Alex Berman