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Marcellin Berthelot

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Title: Marcellin Berthelot  
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Collection: 1827 Births, 1907 Deaths, Burials at the Panthéon, Paris, Collège De France Faculty, Corresponding Members of the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences, Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Foreign Members of the Royal Society, French Atheists, French Chemists, French Life Senators, French Scientists, Grand Croix of the Légion D'Honneur, Members of the Académie Française, Members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Officers of the French Academy of Sciences, Politicians from Paris, Recipients of the Copley Medal, Scientists from Paris
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Marcellin Berthelot

Pierre Eugène Marcellin Berthelot
Born (1827-10-25)25 October 1827
Died 18 March 1907(1907-03-18) (aged 79)
Nationality French
Fields Chemistry
Known for Thomsen-Berthelot principle
Notable awards Davy Medal (1883)
Copley Medal (1900)

Pierre Eugène Marcellin Berthelot (French: ) Jöns Jakob Berzelius that organic compounds required organisms in their synthesis. He is considered as one of the greatest chemists of all time.

He was born in Rue du Mouton, Paris,[1] France, the son of a doctor. After doing well at school in history and philosophy, he became a scientist.

He was an atheist.[2][3]


  • Discoveries 1
  • Publications 2
    • Historical and philosophical work 2.1
  • Family 3
  • In art 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


The fundamental conception that underlay all Berthelot's chemical work was that all chemical phenomena depend on the action of physical forces which can be determined and measured. When he began his active career it was generally believed that, although some instances of the synthetic production of organic substances had been observed, on the whole

In 1863 he became a member of the Académie Nationale de Médecine; he was also awarded the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour.


Bombs used for hydrogen explosion experiments

His investigations on the synthesis of organic compounds were published in numerous papers and books, including Chimie organique fondée sur la synthèse (1860) and Les Carbures d'hydrogène (1901). He stated that chemical phenomena are not governed by any peculiar laws special to themselves, but are explicable in terms of the general laws of mechanics that are in operation throughout the universe; and this view he developed, with the aid of thousands of experiments, in his Mécanique chimique (1878) and his Thermochimie (1897). This branch of study naturally conducted him to the investigation of explosives, and on the theoretical side led to the results published in his work Sur la force de la poudre et des matières explosives (1872), while in practical terms it enabled him to render important services to his country as president of the scientific defence committee during the siege of Paris (1870–1871) and subsequently as chief of the French explosives committee. He performed experiments to determine gas pressures during hydrogen explosions using a special chamber fitted with a piston, and was able to distinguish burning of mixtures of hydrogen and oxygen from true explosions.

Historical and philosophical work

During later life he researched and wrote books on the early history of chemistry such as Les Origines de l'alchimie (1885)[4] and Introduction à l'étude de la chimie des anciens et du moyen âge (1889),[5] He also translated various old Greek, Syriac and Arabic treatises on alchemy and chemistry: Collection des anciens alchimistes grecs (1887–1888)[6] and La Chimie au moyen âge (1893).[7] He was the author of Science et philosophie (1886),[8] which contains a well-known letter to Renan on "La Science idéale et la science positive," of La Révolution chimique, Lavoisier (1890),[9] of Science et morale (1897),[10] and of numerous articles in La Grande Encyclopédie, which he helped to establish.

  • Untersuchungen über die Affinitäten, über Bildung und Zersetzung der Äther. Ostwalds Klassiker der exakten Wissenschaften ; 173 Leipzig : Engelmann, 1910 Digital edition by the University and State Library Düsseldorf


Rodin's bust of Berthelot. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, Denmark

Berthelot died suddenly, immediately after the death of his wife Sophie Niaudet (1837–1907), at Paris, and was buried with her in the Panthéon. He had six children:[11] Marcel André (1862–1939), Marie-Hélène (1863–1895), Camille (1864–1928), Daniel (1865–1927), Philippe (1866–1934), and René (1872–1960).

In art

Auguste Rodin has created a bust of Berthelot.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Robert K. Wilcox (2010). The Truth About the Shroud of Turin: Solving the Mystery. Regnery Gateway. p. 23.  
  3. ^ Thomas de Wesselow (2012). The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection. Penguin.  
  4. ^ Les origines de l'alchemie (Paris, G. Steinheil, 1885).
  5. ^ Introduction à l'étude de la chimie, des anciens et du moyen âge (Paris, G. Steinheil, 1889).
  6. ^ Collection des anciens alchimistes Grec. Volume 1, Volume 2–3 (Paris : G. Steinheil, 1887).
  7. ^ Histoire des sciences: La chimie au moyen âge (Imprimerie nationale, 1893).
  8. ^ Science et philosophie (Levy, 1886).
  9. ^ La révolution chimique: Lavoisier (Paris Germer-Baillière, 1890)
  10. ^ Science Et Morale (Levy, 1897).
  11. ^ Individus at


  • Doremus, CG (April 1907). "Pierre Eugene Marcelin Berthelot".  

Further reading

  • Crosland, M.P. (1970–80). "Berthelot, Pierre Eugène Marcelin".  
  • Graebe, O. (1908). "Marcelin Berthelot". Berichte der deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft 41: 4805.  

External links

  • Berthelot at
  • Berthelot, Marcelin (1827–1907), chimiste et homme politique français at
  • "Pierre-Eugène-Marcelin Berthelot" at (Archived 2009-11-01)
  • – Pierre EugEne Marcelin Berthelot (Chemistry, Biography) – Encyclopedia at
  • Works by Marcellin Berthelot at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Marcellin Berthelot at Internet Archive
  • Biographies of Scientific Men/Berthelot - Wikisource, the free online library
Political offices
Preceded by
René Goblet
Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts
Succeeded by
Eugène Spuller
Preceded by
Jean Casimir-Perier
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Léon Bourgeois
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