The Info List - Jöns Jakob Berzelius

Baron Jöns Jacob Berzelius
Jöns Jacob Berzelius
(Swedish: [jœns ˌjɑːkɔb bæɹˈseːliɵs]; 20 August 1779 – 7 August 1848), 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.[1] 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 (by showing its electrochemically opposing ingredients) and quantitatively (by showing the proportions in which the ingredients were united). 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 (1803) and thorium (1828). 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
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.[2]


1 Biography 2 Achievements

2.1 Law of definite proportions 2.2 Chemical notation 2.3 Discovery of elements 2.4 New chemical terms 2.5 Biology

2.5.1 Vitalism

3 Relations with other scientists 4 Family 5 Honours 6 References 7 Further reading 8 External links

Biography[edit] Berzelius was born in the parish of Väversunda in Östergötland
in Sweden. His father was a school teacher in the nearby city of Linköping
and his mother a homemaker[3]. Berzelius lost both his parents at an early age; his father passed away in 1779, and his mother in 1787. Relatives in Linköping
took care of him, and there he attended the school today known as Katedralskolan. He then enrolled at Uppsala University, where he learned the profession of medical doctor from 1796 to 1801; Anders Gustaf Ekeberg, the discoverer of tantalum, taught him chemistry. He worked as an apprentice in a pharmacy and with a physician in the Medevi
mineral springs. During this time, he conducted analysis of the spring water. For his medical studies, he examined the influence of galvanic current on several diseases and graduated as M.D. in 1802. He worked as physician near Stockholm
until the mine-owner Wilhelm Hisinger
Wilhelm Hisinger
discovered his analytical abilities and provided him with a laboratory.[citation needed] Between 1808 and 1836, Berzelius worked together with Anna Sundström, who acted as his assistant.[4] In 1807, Berzelius was appointed professor in chemistry and pharmacy at the Karolinska Institute. In 1808, he was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy
Swedish Academy
of Sciences. At this time, the Academy had been stagnating for several years, since the era of romanticism in Sweden had led to less interest in the sciences. In 1818, Berzelius was elected the Academy's secretary and held the post until 1848. During Berzelius' tenure, he is credited with revitalising the Academy and bringing it into a second golden era (the first being the astronomer Pehr Wilhelm Wargentin's period as secretary from 1749 to 1783).[5] He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1822.[6] In 1827, he became correspondent of the Royal Institute of the Netherlands, and in 1830 associate member.[7] In 1837, he was elected a member of the Swedish Academy, on chair number 5. Achievements[edit] Law of definite proportions[edit]

of Berzelius.

Not long after arriving to Stockholm
he wrote a chemistry textbook for his medical students, from which point a long and fruitful career in chemistry began. In 1813, he published an essay on the proportions of elements in compounds. The essay commenced with a general description, introduced his new symbolism, examined all the known elements, included a table of specific weights, and finished with a selection of compounds written in his new formalisation.[8] In 1818, he compiled a table of relative atomic weights, where oxygen was set to 100, and which included all of the elements known at the time.[9] This work provided evidence in favour of the atomic theory proposed by John Dalton: that inorganic chemical compounds are composed of atoms combined in whole number amounts. In discovering that atomic weights are not integer multiples of the weight of hydrogen, Berzelius also disproved Prout's hypothesis that elements are built up from atoms of hydrogen. Berzelius's atomic weight tables was first published in a German translation of his Textbook of Chemistry
in 1826.[10] Chemical notation[edit] In order to aid his experiments, he developed a system of chemical notation in which the elements were given simple written labels—such as O for oxygen, or Fe for iron—with proportions noted by numbers. This is the same system used today, the only difference being that instead of the subscript number used today (e.g., H2O), Berzelius used a superscript (H2O).[11] Discovery of elements[edit] Berzelius is credited with identifying the chemical elements silicon, selenium, thorium, and cerium. Students working in Berzelius's laboratory also discovered lithium and vanadium. Berzelius discovered silicon by repeating an experiment performed by Gay-Lussac and Thénard. In the experiment, Berzelius reacted silicon tetrafluoride with potassium metal and then purified its product by washing it until it became a brown powder. Berzelius recognized this brown powder as the new element of silicon, which he called silicium,[12] a name proposed earlier by Davy. New chemical terms[edit] Berzelius is credited with originating the chemical terms "catalysis," "polymer," "isomer," and "allotrope," although his original definitions differ dramatically from modern usage. As an example, he coined the term "polymer" in 1833 to describe organic compounds which shared identical empirical formulas but which differed in overall molecular weight, the larger of the compounds being described as "polymers" of the smallest. At this time the concept of chemical structure had not yet been developed so that he considered only the numbers of atoms of each element, and viewed for example glucose (C6H12O6) as a polymer of formaldehyde (CH2O) contrary to modern usage. Berzelius also developed electrochemical dualism. Biology[edit] Berzelius was the first person to make the distinction between organic compounds (those containing carbon), and inorganic compounds. In particular, he advised Gerardus Johannes Mulder
Gerardus Johannes Mulder
in his elemental analyses of organic compounds such as coffee, tea, and various proteins. The term protein itself was coined by Berzelius, after Mulder observed that all proteins seemed to have the same empirical formula and came to the erroneous conclusion that they might be composed of a single type of very large molecule. Berzelius proposed the name because the material seemed to be the primitive substance of animal nutrition that plants prepare for herbivores. Vitalism[edit] Berzelius stated in 1810 that living things work by some mysterious "vital force",[13] a hypothesis called vitalism. Related to this, he proposed that compounds could be distinguished by whether they required any organisms in their manufacture (organic compounds) or whether they did not (inorganic compounds). However, in 1828, Friedrich Wöhler
Friedrich Wöhler
accidentally obtained urea, an organic compound, by heating ammonium cyanate. Contrary to a widespread myth, it was not the end of this vitalist hypothesis, let alone vitalism in general. But in 1845, Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe
Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe
prepared acetic acid from inorganic precursors, and in the 1850s, Marcellin Berthelot synthesized numerous organic compounds from inorganic precursors, providing abundant counterevidence. The Fischer–Tropsch process
Fischer–Tropsch process
for making hydrocarbons, the Miller–Urey experiment
Miller–Urey experiment
and other prebiotic-chemistry experiments, and biosynthesis pathways provide even more counterevidence. Relations with other scientists[edit] Berzelius was a prolific correspondent with such leading scientists as Gerardus Johannes Mulder, Claude Louis Berthollet, Humphry Davy, Friedrich Wöhler
Friedrich Wöhler
and Eilhard Mitscherlich. After denying that chlorine is an element (which was proposed by Humphry Davy
Humphry Davy
in 1810) for quite some time, the dispute was ended by the finding of iodine in 1812. Family[edit]

Statue of Berzelius in the center of Berzelii Park, Stockholm

In 1818 Berzelius was ennobled by King Carl XIV Johan; in 1835, at the age of 56, he married Elisabeth Poppius, the 24-year-old daughter of a Swedish cabinet minister, and in the same year was elevated to friherre.[14] Berzeliusskolan, a school situated next to his alma mater, Katedralskolan, is named for him. In 1939 his portrait appeared on a series of postage stamps commemorating the bicentenary of the founding of the Swedish Academy
Swedish Academy
of Sciences. He died on 7 August 1848 at his home in Stockholm, where he had lived since 1806.[15] Honours[edit]

1840: Knight of the Order of Leopold.[16]


^ "Jöns Jacob Berzelius". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 3 August 2008.  ^ "Berzelius Day honoured on YouTube".  ^ Berzelius, Jöns Jakob. Jakob Berzelius: Selbstbiographische Aufzeichnungen. Forgotten Books. ISBN 1332586104.  ^ "Karolinska Institutet 200 År - 1810-2010".  ^ Centre for History of Science at the Royal Swedish Academy
Swedish Academy
of Sciences: KVA och Berzelius Archived 19 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine., accessed 23 May 2009 (in Swedish) ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 24 June 2011.  ^ " Jöns Jacob Berzelius
Jöns Jacob Berzelius
(1779 - 1848)". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 19 July 2015.  ^ Berzelius, Jacob (1813), Thomson, Thomas, ed., "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, London: Robert Baldwin, II & III, pp 443 – 454 & pp 51 – 62, 93 – 106, 244 – 256, 353 – 364, retrieved 13 December 2014  also Vol III ^ NationalEncyklopedin. Höganäs, Sweden: Bra Böcker AB. 1990. p. 484. ISBN 91-7024-619-X.  ^ " Jöns Jacob Berzelius
Jöns Jacob Berzelius
Swedish chemist". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-02-22.  ^ Berzelius 1813, Vol III, pp 51 – 52. ^ Berzelius, Jons Jacob (1825). "On the mode of obtaining silicium, and on the characters and properties of that substance". The Philosophical Magazine and Journal. 65: 254–267 – via Google Books.  ^ Cornish-Bawden, Athel, ed. (1997), New Beer in an Old Bottle. Eduard Buchner and the Growth of Biochemical Knowledge, Universitat de València, pp. 72–73, ISBN 9788437033280  ^ Biographical Dictionary of Scientists ed. T. I. Williams. London: A. & C. Black, 1969; pp. 55–56 ^ "Berzelius, Johan Jakob, Baron". Chamber's Biographical Dictionary 1897.  ^ Almanach royal officiel de Belgique/1841 p118

Further reading[edit]

Jaime Wisniak (2000). " Jöns Jacob Berzelius
Jöns Jacob Berzelius
A Guide to the Perplexed Chemist". The Chemical Educator. 5 (6): 343–350. doi:10.1007/s00897000430a.  Paul Walden
Paul Walden
(1947). "Zum 100. Todestag von Jöns Jakob Berzelius am 7. August 1948". Naturwissenschaften. 34 (11): 321–327. Bibcode:1947NW.....34..321W. doi:10.1007/BF00644137.  Holmberg, Arne (1933) Bibliografi över J. J. Berzelius. 2 parts in 5 vol. Stockholm: Kungl. Svenska Vetenskapsakademien, 1933–67. 1. del och suppl. 1–2. Tryckta arbeten av och om Berzelius. 2. del och suppl. Manuskript Jorpes, J. Erik (1966) Jac. Berzelius – his life and work; translated from the Swedish manuscript by Barbara Steele. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1966. (Reissued by University of California Press, Berkeley, 1970 ISBN 0-520-01628-9) Leicester, Henry (1970–80). "Berzelius, Jöns Jacob". Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 2. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 90–97. ISBN 978-0-684-10114-9.  Partington, J. R. (1964) History of Chemistry; vol. 4. London: Macmillan; pp. 142–77

External links[edit]

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has the text of a 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article about Jöns Jacob Berzelius.

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List of works by Berzelius (301 items as of access date 2011-12-29) Online works at Project Runeberg (in Latin) Works by Jöns Jakob Berzelius at Project Gutenberg Works by or about Jöns Jacob Berzelius
Jöns Jacob Berzelius
at Internet Archive Online correspondence between Berzelius and Sir Humphry Davy
Humphry Davy
on Wikisource
(in English) (in French) Online works on Gallica
(in French) (in Swedish) (27 items as of access date 2011-12-29) Nordisk familjebok (1905), band 3, s. 90–96 (in Swedish) Poliakoff, Martyn. Jöns Jacob Berzelius. University of Nottingham: The Periodic Table of Videos.  Digital edition of "Lehrbuch der Chemie" 1823/1824 by the University and State Library Düsseldorf Digital edition of "Das saidschitzer Bitterwasser : chemisch untersucht" 1840 by the University and State Library Düsseldorf Digital edition of "Aus Jac. Berzelius' und Gustav Magnus' Briefwechsel in den Jahren 1828 - 1847" 1900 by the University and State Library Düsseldorf  "Berzelius, Johan Jakob". The American Cyclopædia. 1879. 

Cultural offices

Preceded by Carl von Rosenstein Swedish Academy, Seat No.5 1837-48 Succeeded by Johan Erik Rydqvist

v t e

Copley Medallists (1801–1850)

Astley Cooper
Astley Cooper
(1801) William Hyde Wollaston
William Hyde Wollaston
(1802) Richard Chenevix (1803) Smithson Tennant
Smithson Tennant
(1804) Humphry Davy
Humphry Davy
(1805) Thomas Andrew Knight
Thomas Andrew Knight
(1806) Everard Home
Everard Home
(1807) William Henry (1808) Edward Troughton
Edward Troughton
(1809) Benjamin Collins Brodie (1811) William Thomas Brande
William Thomas Brande
(1813) James Ivory (1814) David Brewster
David Brewster
(1815) Henry Kater
Henry Kater
(1817) Robert Seppings
Robert Seppings
(1818) Hans Christian Ørsted
Hans Christian Ørsted
(1820) Edward Sabine
Edward Sabine
/ John Herschel
John Herschel
(1821) William Buckland
William Buckland
(1822) John Pond (1823) John Brinkley (1824) François Arago
François Arago
/ Peter Barlow (1825) James South (1826) William Prout
William Prout
/ Henry Foster (1827) George Biddell Airy
George Biddell Airy
(1831) Michael Faraday
Michael Faraday
/ Siméon Denis Poisson
Siméon Denis Poisson
(1832) Giovanni Antonio Amedeo Plana
Giovanni Antonio Amedeo Plana
(1834) William Snow Harris
William Snow Harris
(1835) Jöns Jacob Berzelius
Jöns Jacob Berzelius
/ Francis Kiernan (1836) Antoine César Becquerel
Antoine César Becquerel
/ John Frederic Daniell
John Frederic Daniell
(1837) Carl Friedrich Gauss
Carl Friedrich Gauss
/ Michael Faraday
Michael Faraday
(1838) Robert Brown (1839) Justus von Liebig
Justus von Liebig
/ Jacques Charles François Sturm
Jacques Charles François Sturm
(1840) Georg Ohm
Georg Ohm
(1841) James MacCullagh
James MacCullagh
(1842) Jean-Baptiste Dumas
Jean-Baptiste Dumas
(1843) Carlo Matteucci (1844) Theodor Schwann
Theodor Schwann
(1845) Urbain Le Verrier
Urbain Le Verrier
(1846) John Herschel
John Herschel
(1847) John Couch Adams
John Couch Adams
(1848) Roderick Murchison
Roderick Murchison
(1849) Peter Andreas Hansen
Peter Andreas Hansen

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 41868753 LCCN: n79065879 ISNI: 0000 0001 1058 9531 GND: 118510185 SELIBR: 178154 SUDOC: 029324017 BNF: cb12097467c (data) MGP: 145114 NLA: 35018115 NDL: 00463211 NKC: ola2002153025 BNE: XX1511853 SN