Jöns Jakob Berzelius (1779–1848). Nature 162, 210 (1948) doi:10.1038/162210b0
Jöns Jacob Berzelius quotes
Jöns Jacob Berzelius
Birthdate: 20. August 1779
Date of death: 7. August 1848
Baron Jöns Jacob Berzelius , named by himself and contemporary society as Jacob Berzelius, was a Swedish chemist. Berzelius is considered, along with Robert Boyle, John Dalton, and Antoine Lavoisier, to be one of the founders of modern chemistry.Berzelius began his career as a physician but his researches in physical chemistry were of lasting significance in the development of the subject. He is especially noted for his determination of atomic weights; his experiments led to a more complete depiction of the principles of stoichiometry, or the field of chemical combining proportions. In 1803 Berzelius demonstrated the power of an electrochemical cell to decompose chemicals into pairs of electrically opposite constituents.
Berzelius's work with atomic weights and his theory of electrochemical dualism led to his development of a modern system of chemical formula notation that could portray the composition of any compound both qualitatively and quantitatively . His system abbreviated the Latin names of the elements with one or two letters and applied superscripts to designate the number of atoms of each element present in both the acidic and basic ingredients.
Berzelius himself discovered and isolated several new elements, including cerium and thorium . Berzelius’s interest in mineralogy also fostered his analysis and preparation of new compounds of these and other elements. The mineral berzelianite was discovered in 1850 and named after him. He was a strict empiricist and insisted that any new theory be consistent with the sum of chemical knowledge. He developed classical analytical techniques, and investigated isomerism and catalysis, phenomena that owe their names to him. He became a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1808 and served from 1818 as its principal functionary, the perpetual secretary. He is known in Sweden as "the Father of Swedish Chemistry". Berzelius Day is celebrated on 20 August in honour of him.
Quotes Jöns Jacob Berzelius
„As mineralogy constitutes a part of chemistry, it is clear that this arrangement [of minerals] must derive its principles from chemistry. The most perfect mode of arrangement would certainly be to allow bodies to follow each other according to the order of their electro-chemical properties, from the most electro-negative, oxygen, to the most electro-positive, potassium; and to place every compound body according to its most electro-positive ingredient.“
Jöns Jacob Berzelius, An Attempt to Establish a Pure Scientific System of Mineralogy (1814), trans. J. Black, 48.
„In arranging the bodies in order of their electrical nature, there is formed an electro-chemical system which, in my opinion, is more fit than any other to give an idea of chemistry.“
Jöns Jacob Berzelius, Essai sur le théorie des proportions chimiques (1819). Translated in Henry M. Leicester and Herbert S. Klickstein, A Source Book in Chemistry 1400-1900 (1952), 260.
„Chemical signs ought to be letters, for the greater facility of writing, and not to disfigure a printed book … I shall take therefore for the chemical sign, the initial letter of the Latin name of each elementary substance: but as several have the same initial letter, I shall distinguish them in the following manner:— 1. In the class which I shall call metalloids, I shall employ the initial letter only, even when this letter is common to the metalloid and to some metal. 2. In the class of metals, I shall distinguish those that have the same initials with another metal, or a metalloid, by writing the first two letters of the word. 3. If the first two letters be common to two metals, I shall, in that case, add to the initial letter the first consonant which they have not in common: for example, S = sulphur, Si = silicium, St = stibium (antimony), Sn = stannum (tin), C = carbonicum, Co = colbaltum (colbalt), Cu = cuprum (copper), O = oxygen, Os = osmium, &c.“
Jöns Jacob Berzelius, Essay on the Cause of Chemical Proportions, and on some circumstances relating to them: together with a short and easy method of expressing them', Annals of Philosophy, 1814, 3,51-2.
„Every chemical combination is wholly and solely dependent on two opposing forces, positive and negative electricity, and every chemical compound must be composed of two parts combined by the agency of their electrochemical reaction, since there is no third force. Hence it follows that every compound body, whatever the number of its constituents, can be divided into two parts, one of which is positively and the other negatively electrical.“
Jöns Jacob Berzelius Essai sur la théorie des proportions chemiques (1819), 98. Quoted by Henry M. Leicester in article on Bessel in Charles Coulston Gillespie (editor), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1981), Vol. 2, 94.