Scheele, Carl Wilhelm
SCHEELE, CARL WILHELM
(b, Stralsund, Swedish Pomerania, 19 December 1742; d. Köping, Sweden, 21 May 1786)
Scheele was the seventh of eleven children of Jochim Christian Scheel(e) and Margaretha Eleonora Warnekros. Like his oldest brother. Johan Martin, he became interested in pharmacy at an early age and chose it as his career. It is said that while still a boy he was taught how to read prescriptions and to write chemical symbols by two friends of the family in Stralsund, a physician named Schütte and a pharmacist named Cornelius. After finishing school, which did not include a Gymnasium course, scheele went to Göteborg in 1757 and began his training in the pharmacy of Martin Bauch, where his brother also had been an apprentice.
Bauch’s great influence on Scheele’s development has been confirmed by previously unused source material and is supported by the general reputation for competence that Bauch enjoyed among contemporaries as knowledgeable as Linnaeus. Although Bauch was sixty’three years old when Scheele came to him, he was by no means set on outdated alchemical theories—on the contrary, he was aware of new developments in his profession.
Scheele remained with Bauch beyond his six years of apprenticeship, until the pharmacy was sold in 1765. Then he left Göteborg and for the next ten years traveled as a journeyman. In Malmö he found work in a pharmacy run by Peter Magnus Kjellstrom, who fully understood Scheele’s preference for experimental work and allowed him to work in the laboratory of the pharmacy. His stay in Malmo was especially important because of its proximity to the university city of Lund. It gave Scheele his first contact with the academic world through his friendship with Anders Retzius, lecturer in chemistry at the university and the same age as Scheele. The proximity of Copenhagen, a center of culture and trade, made it possible to buy recently published chemical literature.
Scheele remained in Malmö for three years, until tempted by the better facilities available in Stockholm; the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences was located there, and Uppsala with its famous university was nearby. In the spring of 1768 he found a position in a Stockholm pharmacy run by Johan Scharenberg, but was allowed only to prepare prescriptions. Since this was hardly to his liking. in the summer of 1770 he moved to the establishment of Christian Ludwig Lokk in Uppsala. There he had a workbench in the laboratory, was soon recognized as an able chemist, and met Johan Gottlieb Gahn, Gahn was then an assistant to Torbern Bergman, and he soon brought together the unusually capable apprentice experimenter and the outstanding theorist. This contact eventually developed into a lifelong friendship.
Scheele made important discoveries during his five years in Uppsala. On 4 February 1775, still a studiosus pharmaciae, he was elected a member of the Swedish Academy of Sciences and began to publish in itsHandlingar (“Transactions”). Also while in Uppsala he began his major work; to combine the many and varied experiments with fire and air made during the previous years into an integrated book.
Since after fulfilling his apprenticeship Scheele had for thirteen years contented himself with subordinate positions offering limited possibilities for experimental research, it is not surprising that he was eager to seize an opportunity that held the promise of independence. Sara Margaretha Sonneman, the daughter of a councilman in Köping, had married a pharmacist named Herman Pohl in 1772. He died in 1775, and now she was looking for someone to carry on the pharmacy privilege that she had inherited. In the summer of that year Scheele reached an agreement with the widow that he would manage the pharmacy independently for one year and that after nine months he could negotiate for its purchase. This agreement nearly fell through when another prospective buyer secretly rented the pharmacy. In less than a year, however, Scheele had become so popular and respected that the citizens of the province demanded that he continue to be the city’s pharmacist. He remained in the small town until his death, disregarding all offers to leave it, including that to succeed Marggraf at Berlin.
Scheele left Köping only once. for a few days. After the dispute about the ownership of the pharmacy had been settled, he traveled to Stockholm, where he took his long-postponed pharmacy examination and swore the pharmacist’s oath on II November 1777. Two weeks earlier he had finally taken his seat as a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, to which he had been elected in 1775. On 23 November Scheele returned to Köping. On 18 May 1786, on his deathbed, he married the widow Pohl and made her his heiress.
The earlier periods of Scheele’s scientific career have not yet been elucidated; but from the extant letters of his employers Bauch and Kjellström, as well as from statements of his co-workers in Göteborg, it is clear that his curiosity was as boundless as his persistence. A surviving inventory of 1755 shows that the two most famous chemical handbooks of the time, Kunckel’s Laboratorium chymicum and Caspar Neumann’s Praelectiones chemicae, were available in Bauch’s pharmacy; and Scheele undertook to repeat the numerous experiments in these books. The critical mind that Scheele had developed in his teens soon led him to conclude that in many instances he knew better than the authorities of his time. This belief explains his boldness in declaring his opposition to an important detail of the phlogiston theory. According to this theory all combustible material contained a special substance, phlogiston, that escaped as the material burned. Scheele, however, thought that the phlogiston went into the heat that was formed, so that it could be liberated from the heat or fire. Thus, while denying that fire was an element, he simultaneously changed the phlogiston theory by stating that some reductions can occur without the addition of the reducing medium, phlogiston, but solely by providing heat. As a demonstration he cited the reduction of silver nitrate to metallic silver by heating it to redness (in which case the necessary phlogiston was provided by the fire).
Scheele’s refusal to accept phlogiston as an element of combustibility, regardless of what the leading authorities said, showed an unusual instinct for research in a teen-ager; and one could expect that such exceptional abilities would soon produce written results, perhaps as laboratory notes. Among the extant papers of this kind, however, nothing can be ascribed with certainty to the early years in Göteborg. For the last several years there has been a renewed attempt in Sweden to make an inventory and a more thorough examination of Scheele’s manuscripts, and it is anticipated that this effort will lead to a more precise dating. The preserved laboratory notes are quite detailed but difficult to interpret, for they are jotted down in an ungrammatical Old German and in a script that is extremely hard to read. The words are often so abbreviated as to be incomprehensible and the text filled with variations of now obsolete chemical symbols, or with their Latin equivalents.
The first to try to decipher Scheele’s manuscripts was the mineralogist and polar scientist Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld, who, in connection with the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Scheele’s correspondence with excerpts from his laboratory notes. Nordenskiöld himself described this as a pioneering work and pointed out that through the publication of Scheele’s manuscriptes it would be possible to learn more of his development, evolution of ideas, and work habits. The ambitious plan, however, yielded to an aim that seemed more in harmony with the patriotic feelings of the time: to secure Scheele’s priority for the discovery of oxygen. When Nordenskiüld had accomplished this task, he abruptly halted deciphering of the manuscripts.
In 1942, in connection with the festivities held on the bicentennial of Scheele’s birth, a new edition of the laboratory notes from which Nordenskiöld had presented excerpts was published. The work, edited by the physicist C. W. Oseen, still did not satisfy the demand for clear, scientific interpretation; and the dating was rejected by experts. Neither Nordenskiöld nor Oseen had exhausted the existing manuscript material, however. Therefore the chemist and historian of science Uno Boklund has undertaken the publication of all available laboratory notes and Scheelr’s correspondence, complete with commentary.
Among the items of Scheele’s correspondence published by Nordenskiöld in 1892 are several letters to contemporary lecturers in chemistry at the University of Lund. Anders Retzius was a correspondent between 1 December 1767 and 26 April 1768. These letters are the oldest dated documents written by Scheele that have so far been found. The contents are concerned entirely with chemistry and thus are of great value in following the course of thought that led to Scheele’s opposition to the leading theories and to his discovery of oxygen. It would be almost impossible to obtain a thorough understanding of Scheele and his work without an intimate knowledge of these temperamental and stimulating letters. They reveal a number of experiments on nitrous acid, which Scheele named “volatile acid of niter”, which for that time were outstanding scientific achievements.
As is so often the case, Scheele’s great experimental abilities were overlooked by scholars because of insufficient understanding of eighteenth’century chemistry. They did not realize that the young apprentice was facing a serious conflict, having reached a point in his research where the evidence of his experiments no longer agreed with the classic phlogiston theory. Relying on his experiments, he felt compelled to speak out, a course of action that led not only to the formulation of his theories of combustion and calcination but also to the discovery of oxygen. By comparing his experimental results with reports to Retzius of the same period, it can be seen that in connection with experiments with the volatile nitrous acid. Scheele had already observed that saltpeter becoming redhot in a crucible seemed to “boil” and that above the crucible sparks flamed up and burned with a vivid brilliance. He did not know that this was caused by a gas emanating from the saltpeter that was identical with a component of the air, but his comments concerning the experiments are noteworthy:
I realized the necessity to learn about fire... . But I soon realized that it was not possible to form an opinion on the phenomena of fire as long as one did not understand air. And after I had made a certain number of experiments, I ... saw that the air penetrated into the burning material and constituted a component of flames and sparks.
This marked a milestone in the development of Scheele’s thought, for if air penetrated into the burning material, fire could not be an element; it must be a compound.
It is not known how and when Scheele completed his research on the phenomena of combustion. According to Retzius, in 1768–1770, while in Stockholm, Scheele undertook a series of experiments that laid the basis for his book on air and fire. No attempt has ever been made to find out what these experiments signified, but a manuscript dating from the time before his stay in Stockholm shows that Scheele was already occupied with highly advanced gas experiments. It is of importance, but has gone unnoticed, that his experiments often had a physiological background. He examined how plants react to gases and gas mixtures and had already perfected a technique to isolate and collect in ox bladders the air he wanted to examine. It is especially interesting that he began to examine exhaled air and understood that lime removes aer fixus (carbon dioxide) from it and, thus, that air is separated into its various components through physiological processes. On the whole the above-mentioned manuscripts support Retzius’ statements and, in combination with other known facts, give validity to the assumption that it was in Stockholm that Scheele definitively rejected the theory of air as an element.
Among the many problems that occupied Scheele in the 1760’s, his examinations of volatile nitrous acid are undoubtedly the most interesting for tracing the evolution of his thought. But in letters to Retzius he mentions the excellent results of his work with Prussian blue, which many years latter led to the discovery of prussic acid, and also of a long series of experiments with boric acid and the first experiments with hydrogen sulfide. The isolation of tartaric acid also was part of this early work; but Scheele’s account of it, sent to the Academy of Sciences, went unnoticed. Retzius, who in the fall of 1768 had come to Stockholm, enlarged it with some additional experiments and published it in the Handlingar of the Academy in 1770, with due acknowledgment of Scheele’s priority. While in Stockholm, Scheele also undertook research on the chemical reactions of light on silver salts and discovered that different parts of the solar spectrum reduce with different strength. According to Retzius it was also in Stockholm that Scheele found that aer fixus was an acid.
The fields of interest mentioned so far reveal the youthful Scheele’s imposing versatility, but they are greatly overshadowed by the veritable catalog of important chemical observations and discoveries that appeared under the heading “P. M. hördt af Herr Scheele. År 1770 om Våhren” (“Memorandum Heard from Herr Scheele. Spring 1770”). This document, preserved in the Scheele archives of the library of the Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, was written in Swedish by Johan Gottlieb Gahn.
By way of introduction this memorandum presents Scheele’s observations concerning the chemical composition of terra animalis (bone ash), which later, after Gahn had proved the presence of phosphorus, led to Scheele’s method of producing phosphorus from animal bones instead of from urine (as had been customary until then). Other observations concern tartaric acid, pyrotartaric and pyruvic acids, oxalic acid, gallic and pyrogallic acids, and citric acid. A number of notes about gases deal with the production of ammonia gas and its combustibility, with hydrochloric acid gas, and with aer fixus. One experiment concerns the change of water into earth, and there are many observations about different chemical compounds. Of the greatest interest are some notes on the solution of iron in acid, for they make it clear that Scheele already knew about the different oxidation grades of iron.
This detailed memorandum covering Scheele’s earliest years at Uppsala sheds no light on the research in minerals that then attracted his interest. His work with fluorspar led to the discovery of a new mineral acid, hydrofluoric acid (mixed with hydrofluosilicic acid). The discovery of “the Swedish acid” attracted great attention and was the subject of Scheele’s first independent contribution to the Handlingar of the Academy (1771). In a letter of 10 April 1772 Macquer wrote about it to Torbern Bergman and requested more information.
When the experiments on fluorspar were finished, Bergman suggested that Scheele study the chemistry of pyrolusite. Although chemists had been interested in the mineral for many years, they had discovered little more than properties necessary to differentiate it from other minerals. By contrast, Scheele began his examination by determining the solubility of pyrolusite, under various conditions, in all the known acids. Thus he was able to show that it has a very strong attraction for phlogiston (in modern terms, it is a strong oxidizing agent) and could place it in a phlogistic reducing system, which gave him the key to many of the mineral’s properties that were not then understood.
The most important result of these experiments, however, was Scheele’s discovery of chlorine, which occurred in connection with the attempts to dissolve pyrolusite in hydrochloric acid. In a communication to Gahn of 28 March 1773, Scheele said that by dissolving pyrolusite, hydrochloric acid loses its phlogiston and becomes a yellowish gas that smells like aqua regia and can dissolve gold but is barely soluble in water. In a subsequent letter he reported additional properties of the new gas, among them the observation that it reacts as a bleach with textile dyes, becoming hydrochloric acid in the process, and that the original colors cannot be restored.
From the same communication to Gahn it is clear that Scheele, after the successful dephlogistication of hydrochloric acid that resulted in the discovery of chlorine, conceived the idea of placing arsenic in a hypothetical phlogistic reducing system. In an article on arsenic, published in 1775, he says that shortly after he had discovered the phlogiston content of arsenic and that it could be dephlogisticated (oxidized), he decided to investigate arsenic without phlogiston and found that it contained an acid (arsenic acid). The detailed article describes more than 100 experiments and contains the first mention of the later famous “Scheele’s green.” Before the article was published, Scheele added a short note concerning a newly discovered material, “earth of heavy spar,” which was later renamed baryta. A separate article about this earth was published in 1779.
Scheele’s experimental activity in Uppsala was quite extensive. In a letter of 1 March 1773 he stated that he was the first to discover that gases are absorbed by recently ignited charcoal, and, in another letter, that he had analyzed sal microcosmicum, which could be isolated from urine, and found it to be sodium ammonium phosphate. In addition, he had worked out a method to produce sal benzoes by keeping it wet. This communication was read to the Academy of Sciences in 1774 and was later printed in the Handlingar. Another pharmaceutical preparation discussed in these letters was rhubarb with mercurous chloride.
Further studies of Scheele’s correspondence from this period show that he began to make notes on still greater discoveries. Ironically, in foreign countries, especially in France, he and his work were much better known than in Sweden. Thus, when Lavoisier published his Opuscules physiqueset chymiques at the beginning of January 1774 and sent a copy to the Academy of sciences in Stockholm, he showed his great respect for Scheele’s scientific work by stating that he would forward an additional copy to him.
In a letter to Lavoisier of 30 September 1774 Scheele freely disclosed his discovery of oxygen and, to demonstrate his gratitude for the book, gave him instructions on how to make pure oxygen. Until then no chemist who had produced or released it had been aware that it was a completely new gas or had been fully familiar with all its properties. Scheele demonstrated his superiority over his scientific contemporaries by giving Lavoisier information on both the chemical and the physiological properties of oxygen. This letter from Scheele is the earliest known written description of the detailed method of producing oxygen, together with complete information on its chemical nature and physiological properties. It was discovered among Lavoisier’s papers by his biographer édouard Grimaux, who published the letter in a way that clearly showed his awareness of its importance; as part of a communication entitled “Une letter inédite de Scheele à Lavoisier,” it adorns the first page of the initial issue, dated 15 January 1890, of the Revue générale des sciences pures et appliquées. The important content of the letter was not understood, however; it was ignored in the research on the chemical revolution and was not even reprinted by Grimaux. This letter has not been included in the most recent French edition of Lavoisier’s correspondence.
In a letter of 2 August 1774 from Scheele to the secretary of the Stockholm Academy Per Wargentin, in which he said that he had studied air and fire for many years, Scheele mentioned that until recently he had thought he was the only one to know of certain phenomena but that “some Englishman had gone very far in his researches.” It is conceivable that this realization that he had rivals impelled him to summarize his own results, for the manuscript of Chemische Abhandlung von der Luft und dem Feuer was ready for the printer on 22 December 1775. In it, with the assistance of numerous elegant experiments, Scheele proved that air liberated from aerial acid (carbon dioxide) and water vapor consists of two gases: fire air (oxygen), which can support combustion, and vitiated, foul air (nitrogen), which cannot.
The printing of the book was delayed for two years, partly because Torbern Bergman did not deliver his promised preface until 1 July 1777; the work appeared the following month. By then oxygen was already known, and some of the observations in the book had been published by others. Priestley, during a visit to Paris in October 1774, informed Lavoisier, Le Roy, and many other scientists of his discovery of a new remarkable gas on 1 August 1774; and that date was long accepted as the “birthday” of oxygen. Now it is known from Scheele’s laboratory notes that the discovery was made at least two years before Priestley’s. Even the notion that Priestley should have published it earlier is negated when it is noted (Partingtoń) that Bergman had published a summary of Scheele’s discovery of oxygen and of his theory of heat in Nova acta Regiae societatis scientiarum upsaliensis many months before Priestley revealed his discovery.
In the last chapter of Luft und Feuer, Scheele wrote about his experiments with “fetid sulfurous air” (hydrogen sulfied), the first correct description of its properties: he was also the first to record a synthesis of the gas through the heating of sulfur in hydrogen. Scheele’s view that this gas consisted of sulfur, heat, and phlogiston was correct, since he thought that hydrogen was a combination of heat and phlogiston. Further, Scheele provided the first description of hydrogen polysulfides, which he had already mentioned in a letter to Retzius in 1768.
The minerals plumbago (graphite) and molybdena (molybdenite, MoS2) are so similar in appearance and physical properties that they are often confused. In an effort to differentiate them, Scheele thickened and boiled molybdenite with all known acids, but even arsenic and nitric acids had no effect. But the oxidizing nitric acid eventually yielded a white powder that was soluble in water and gave an acid reaction. Scheele named it terra molybdaenae (MoO3) and observed that “the earth” gave a blue solution with concentrated sulfuric acid, a reaction that led him to consider it “not reluctant to attract phlogiston” –in other words, it could be reduced. Since Scheele did not possess a furnace that could reduce the earth to metal, he asked his friend Peter Jacob Hjelm, a mineralogist, to do this for him. In 1781, with improved ovens, Helm produced the metal and suggested the name molybdenum.
In 1770–1771 Scheele had examined plumbago (manuscript no. 2 in the Brown Book) but had obtained no definite results. He now took up the problem again and showed that the end product obtained by detonation with saltpeter or heating with arsenic acid was aerial acid (carbon dioxide). From this he concluded that graphite is carbon dioxide combined with a great amount of phlogiston —that cardon is a reduction product of carbon dioxide. In a letter to Bergman of 18 August 1780, Scheele discussed his thorough study of tungsten (lapis ponderosus, now called scheelite, CaWo4). He had found that it consists of lime and a new acid, tungstic acid: but his efforts to reduce it to metal failed.
Scheele’s contributions to inorganic chemistry should not overshadow his research in organic chemistry, which may be considered more imposing, since he had no precedent. In his preliminary attempts to isolate from plants or animals the delicate materials he planned to examine, he had to avoid the destructive methods (calcination, distilling until dry) common in inorganic chemistry and to proceed with greater caution, working with lower temperatures and learning to extract with water or some other solvent. Scheele was especially successful in his method of isolating organic acids by precipitating the acid as an insoluble calcium salt ro potassium ferrocyanide and then separating it with diluted sulfuric acid.
Scheele had obtained excellent results in inorganic chemistry by oxidation, and the same methods in organic chemistry led to the discovery of many new acids. When this work is added to his researches in protein and fat, it is clear that Partington’s judgment that Scheele’s influence in organic chemistry was fundamental was fully justified.
Scheele had isolated tartaric acid during his stay in Malmö and had discussed its property of forming both acid and neutral salts. Later he observed the formation of pyrotartaric acid. Scheele doucmented his interest in plant acids in his first known letter (1 December 1767), in which he wrote to Retzius: “So far as the essential salts [acids] of plants are concerned, I have crystallized the juices of Aconitum. Stramonium and Mentha crispa.” In manuscript no. 1 of the Borwn Book he began to examine “rhubarb earth,” which he thought consisted of citric acid bound with lime (also in manuscript no.2). About 1770 he changed his mind and thought it was phophoric acid, then finally found that “rhubarb earth” was the calcium salt of acid of sorrel. Untill then no chemist had been able to prepare free acid of sorrel. At the beginning of 1776 Scheele had succeeded in isolating it through the use of baryta, but it was not absolutely pure. In 1784 the obtained the pure acid by precipitating it out with a calculated amount of sulfuric acid. At the same time he learned that the pure acid of sorrel was identical with acid of sugar that he had discovered earlier and had produced through the oxidation of sugar with nitric acid. Both acids were latter called oxalic acid.
Scheele’ outstanding experimental ability also led to his solution of the difficult problem of obtaining pure crystallized citric acid from lemon juice. If he could do so, he could determine the properties of the acid and also compare it with acids of other fruits and berries. Scheele investigated twenty-one kinds of fruit and berries, as well as fifteen other materials of vegetable origin and some animal material (glue, egg white, egg yolk, blood), all of which were analyzed after oxidation with nitric acid. He finally found an organic acid (which he named malic acid) in the apple. The same process with milk sugar had already yielded yet another new acid, acidum sacchari lactis, later called mucic acid.
Valentine, Paracelsus, and Helmont had tired without success to analyze urinary calculi, and their successors had not fared any better. Scheele attempted to solve the problem in a different manner, and in 1776 he reported that he had separated from both kidney stones and urine the acid of calculus (uric acid). He added that it could be recognized by the red spots it produced on the skin after being dusted with nitric acid.
According to one of his letters to Retzius, Scheele’s work with the coloring principle of Prussian blue dated from 1765. This intricate problem was one of the most difficult of Scheele’s career, and it took eighteen years for him to reach his goal: the took eighteen years for him to reach his goal: the discovery of prussic acid. He reported that this acidum beorlinense (hydrocyanic acid) had “a peculiar but not disagreeable smell, a taste somewhat approaching sweet, and warm in the mouth, at the same time exciting a cough.” It is difficult, says Partington, to understand how he escaped with his life.
The capstones of Scheele’s gigantic chemical edifice were his discovery of glycerol and of the art of preserving vinegar by heating the vessel containing it in a kettle with boiling water—pasteuri’zation a century before Pasteur. He also found that vinegar is an oxidation product of alcohol and that “an ether of exquisite smell” (acetaldehyde) is an intermediate product during the oxidation.
The list of Scheele’s discoveries does not tell the whole story of his work. For this, more thorough source studies are needed, especially editions of Scheele”s collected manuscripts with expert commentary. When such material is available, it will be possible to consider his work as that of an indefatigable seeker after truth who was driven to test and retest the validity of contemporary answers to the great chemical controversies of the time, without regard for theoretical attitudes. Scheele’s thousands of experiments seem to be random, but closer examination reveals that they are ordered into groups, each of which has a characteristic background that connects it to central theoretical chemical questions: the concept of phlogiston, the value concept, the concepts of elements, the concepts of alkali and acid, and the controversy over acidum pingue.
Also needed is a study of the dissemination of Scheele’s ideas and experimental findings to other countries and their influence on the development of chemistry. It is therefore important to examine his foreign correspondence. Since Scheele in formed Torbern Bergman in great detail of his discoveries, it is no less vital to determine the ways in which Bergman disseminated these chemical reports, which were given to him without any request for secrecy.
I. Original Works. MSS in the Library of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Stockholm are Scheele’s Brown Book, a collection described as extremely difficult to decipher, that includes laboratory notes, drafts of papers, and drafts of letters (the draft of Scheele’s letter to Lavoisier among them): a collection of laboratory notes, difficult to read, on sheets of paper of different shapes and sizes; and part of Scheele’s extensive correspondence.
MSS in the library of the University of Uppsala are mainly Scheele’s important letters to Torbern Bergman.
A selection of the above material has been published in the following editions: A. E. Nordenskiöld, ed., Carl Wilhelm Scheele, Efterlemnade bref och anteckningar (Stockholm, 1892), also in Carl Wilhelm Scheele, Nachgelassene Briefe und Aufzeichnungen (Berlin, 1893); C. W. Oseen, ed., Carl Wilhelm Scheele, Manuskript 1756–1777 (Uppsala, 1942); and a selection of these MSS deciphered by C. W. Oseen, also published as Carl Wilhelm Scheele, Manuskript 1756–1777 (Uppsala, 1942); Otto Zekert, ed., Carl Wilhelm Scheele, Sein Leben und seine Werke, 7 vols. (Mittenwald, 1931–1935).
None of these eds., however, offers exact deciphering and critical clarity. Nordenskiöd arbitrarily modernizes Scheele’s seventeenth-century German and omits important letters, such as the correspondence with J. C. Wilcke, secretary of the Academy of Sciences. (These letters can be found in J. C. Oseen, Johan Carl Wilcke, Experimentalfysiker [Uppsala, 1939], 312–341). Oseen’s ed. of ... Scheele, Manuskript 1756–1777 must be used with great care, since the work abounds with mistakes due to incorrect reading of the text and his dating of the MSS is extremely questionable. Johan Nordström’s review, “En edition av Scheeles efterlämnade manuskript” (“An Edition of Scheele’s Remaining Manuscripts”), in Lychnos (1942), 254–277, is recommended for its detailed and clear criticism. It is a thorough examination of Oseen’s work and also severely criticizes Zekert’s mistakes in his work on Scheele.
A new ed. of Scheele’s work has now been started, supported by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Fund and other foundations. It is complete, with commentary on all his laboratory notes, letters to and from him, and English trans. of all of the material: Carl Wilhelm Scheele. His Work and Life, Uno Boklund, ed., 8 vols. Thus far 2 vols. have appeared: I–II, The Brown Book (Stockholm, 1969). In preparation are III–IV, Laboratory Notes, facs, ed. with intro., decipherment, English trans., and commentary; V. Correspondence 1767–1777, with intro. and parallel English trans.; VI–VII, Correspondence 1778–1786, with parallel English trans., commentary, and index; and VIII, which will cover Scheele’s life and scientific achievements, his influence on contemporary European chemistry, and his role in the chemical revolution, plus a bibliography and general index.
A complete bibliography of Scheele’s numerous printed works is in Nordenskiöld, op. cit., xxxii–xxxviii. Partington includes a list of Scheele’s most important works in his A History of Chemistry, III (London, 1962), 210–211.
II. Secondary Literature. There is no standard biography of Scheele; but since the first obituary was published by Lorenz von Crell in Chemische Annalen, 1 (1787), 175–192, many works of varying reliability have appeared. Nordenskiöld, who published an interesting description of Scheele’s life (op. cit., vii–xxxi) gives a list of the most important biographies (pp. xli–cl). An indispensable guide for the study of the abundant literature about Scheele is Bengt Hildebrand, “Scheele-forskning och Scheelelitteratur,” in Lychnos (1936), 76–102. An American contribution is Georg Urdang, The Apothecary Chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele, A Pictorial Biography (Madison, Wis., 1942; 2nd ed., 1958). Important for questions of priority is J. R. Partington, “The Discovery of Oxygen,” in Journal of Chemical Education, 39 (1962), 123–125.
Among the Swedish contributions are the following listed, chronologically: J. Nordström, “Några bortglömda brev och tidskriftsbidgrag av Carl Wilhelm Scheele” (“Some Forgotten Letters and Journal Contributions by Carl Wilhelm Scheele”), in Lychnos (1942); and “Tvånotiser till Scheeles biografi” (“Two Notes to Scheele’s Biography”), ibid., 280–284; Uno Boklund, “A Lost Letter From Scheele to Lavoisier,” ibid. (1957–1958), 39–62; Carl Wilhelm Scheele. Bruna Boken. Utgiven i faksimil med deschiffrering och innehållsanalys jämte inledning och kommentar (“Carl Wilhelm Scheele. The Brown Book. Published in Facsimile With Deciphering and an Analysis of the Contents With an Introduction and Commentary” Stockholm, 1961): “Varför Scheele måste börja tala engelska” (“Why Scheele Had to Begin Speaking English”), in Svensk farmaceutisk tidskrift, 68 (1964), 967–979; and “Die Rolle Carl Wilhelm Scheeles in der chemischen Revolution des 18. Jahrhunderts,” in Ruperto Carola, 18 (1966), 306–317; and Hugo Olsson, Kemiens historia i Sverige intill år 1800 (“The History of Sweden Until the Year 1800”; Uppsala, 1971), 136–151, 221–234, 282–297, and passim.