Leopold Gmelin (2 August 1788 – 13 April 1853) was a German chemist.
Gmelin was professor at the University of
Heidelberg among other
things, he worked on the red prussiate and created Gmelin's test.
Gmelin and his wife, portraits by Jakob Schlesinger, 1820
German postal stamp featuring Gmelin
4 External links
Gmelin was a son of the physician, botanist and chemist Johann
Friedrich Gmelin and his wife Rosine Schott. Due to his family he
early came in contact with medicine and the natural sciences, in 1804
he attended the chemical lectures of his father. In the same year
Gmelin moved to Tübingen to work in the family pharmacy, he also
studied at the
University of Tübingen
University of Tübingen among other relatives like
Ferdinand Gottlieb Gmelin ( a cousin ) and
Carl Friedrich Kielmeyer
Carl Friedrich Kielmeyer (
husband of a cousin ). Supported by Kielmeyer, Gmelin moved to the
Göttingen in 1805 and later he worked as assistant in
the laboratory of Friedrich Stromeyer, by whom he successfully passed
his exams in 1809.
Leopold Gmelin returned to Tübingen and again heard the lectures of
Ferdinand Gottlieb Gmelin and Carl Friedrich Kielmeyer. In February
1811 Gmelin clashed with the medical student Gutike, according to an
insult he challenged him to a duel, without serious injuries. Because
duels were forbidden among students the incident was kept a secret at
first, he nevertheless came to light. On March 10 Gmelin fled and went
Joseph Franz von Jacquin
Joseph Franz von Jacquin at the University of Vienna. Focus of his
research was the Black pigment of oxen and calves eyes, outcome of
this work was also the subject of Gmelins dissertation. In 1812 he
received his doctorate in
Göttingen in absentia. Until 1813 Gmelin
went on an extensive study trip through Italy. After his return, he
began to work as a
Privatdozent at the
Heidelberg University since the
winter semester of 1813/14, at first he worked on his
Göttingen. On 26 September of the following year he was appointed
associate professor in Heidelberg.
In the fall of 1814, he went on another educational trip to
study at the Sorbonne, he remained there until the spring of 1815.
Together with his cousin,
Christian Gottlob Gmelin
Christian Gottlob Gmelin he made the
acquaintance of René Just Haüy, Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac, Louis
Jacques Thénard and Louis Nicolas Vauquelin.
1816 Gmelin married Louise in Heidelberg-Kirchheim, a daughter of the
Kirchheimer pastor Johann Conrad Maurer, the lawyer Georg Ludwig von
Maurer became his brother-in-law. Together they had three daughters
and one son, including Auguste, the future wife of the physician
Theodor von Dusch.
When the chemist
Martin Heinrich Klaproth
Martin Heinrich Klaproth died in
Berlin in 1817,
Gmelin should have succeeded him. However, he refused and became full
Chemistry at the
Heidelberg University. There, a close
Friedrich Tiedemann evolved with time. The two
published "The digestion after tests" in 1826 and established the
basis of the physiological chemistry. In the field of digestive
chemistry Gmelin later discovered more components of bile and
introduced Gmelin's test. When
Friedrich Wöhler worked on complex
cyanogen compounds in 1822, Gmelin assisted him and discovered the Red
From 1833 to 1838 Gmelin owned a paper mill in the north of Heidelberg
situated Schriesheim, he had taken it over in the hope of profit.
However, the work in the mill showed to be very time- and
money-consuming and at the expense of his academic activity.
In 1817 the first volume of Gmelins Handbook of
published. Till 1843 it was grown in the fourth edition up to 9
volumes. In this edition Gmelin included the Atomtheory and devoted
much more space to the increasingly important organic chemistry. The
Ketone were introduced by Gmelin. Until his death
Gmelin worked on the fifth edition of the handbook, which he has made
himself worthy of the chemical information and documentation. He also
established the basis for the Gmelin system, which later was named
after him, for unambiguous classification of inorganic substances.
At the age of 60 Gmelin suffered a first stroke, another in August
1850. In both strokes the right half of his body was hit, he was able
to recover from the paralysis, but remained debilitated. In the spring
of 1851 Gmelin applied for his retirement, which was granted him a few
months later. In the two following years he suffered increasingly from
the effects of a brain illness, at nearly 65 years
Leopold Gmelin died
on 13 April 1853 in
Heidelberg and was buried at the Mountain Cemetery
in Heidelberg. The grave complex is located in the department E. There
also rests his wife Luise Gmelin and more family members.
Leopold Gmelin's grave on the Mountain Cemetery in
Heidelberg in the
In his works
Leopold Gmelin dealt with physiology, mineralogy and
chemistry. His experimental work was marked by his very thorough and
comprehensive way of working; also some writing talent is attributed
Gmelin's first physiological work was his dissertation on the black
pigment of oxen's and calves' eyes, whose coloring principle he tried
to fathom. Despite the simplest chemical means he could describe the
properties of the pigment and recognized the carbon rightly as the
cause of staining. Gmelin's most important physiological work was the
1826 released digestion by experiments, which he made together with
Friedrich Tiedemann. The work, which also described many new working
techniques, contained groundbreaking insights into the gastric juice,
in which they found hydrochloric acid, and bile, in which Gmelin and
Tiedemann among others discovered cholesterol and taurine. Introduced
Gmelin's test enabled the detection of bile constituents in
the urine of people suffering from jaundice. Furthermore, Gmelin and
Tiedemann delivered a new, more refined view of the absorption of
nutrients through the gastrointestinal tract; they were the founders
of modern physiology.
The mineralogical works of Gmelin were analyses of various minerals,
such as the
Hauyne with which he made his habilitation in Göttingen,
Laumontite and the Cordierite. In addition, Gmelin also
analysed mineral waters and in 1825 published the work try of a new
chemical mineral system, since he knew that the time's usual division
on outer or physical characteristics was inadequate. Leopold Gmelin's
mineral system was taken largely critical among experts, but the basic
idea of an order based on the chemical composition proved to be
Gmelin released the Handbook of theoretical chemistry, which was
continued as the Gmelin Handbook of Inorganic
Chemistry until 1997 in
about 800 volumes by the Gmelin Institute, and it is continued by the
Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker as a database. The manual, even during
his lifetime his most important work, was initially intended to be a
textbook, which should unite the whole chemical knowledge at that
time. Due to the enormous increase in knowledge and the associated
development of the handbook into a reference book, Gmelin published a
compact textbook of chemistry in 1844. His chemical achievements
include the discovery of the Croconic acid; he thus had synthesised
the first cyclic organic compound, and the previously mentioned
discovery of the red prussiate.
Leopold Gmelin besides also developed a forerunner of the Periodic
table and improved chemical equipment.
Chemische Untersuchung des schwarzen Pigments der Ochsen- und
Kälberaugen, nebst einigen physiologischen Bemerkungen über
Göttingen 1812, in Latein. Schweiggers Journ.
10, S. 507–547, 1814
Oryktognostische und chemische Beobachtungen über den Haüyn und
einige mit ihm vorkommende Fossilien, nebst geognostischen Bemerkungen
über die Berge des alten Latiums, Schweiggers Journ. 15 S. 1-41,
1815; Ann. Phil. Thomson 4, S. 115-122; 193-199, 1814
Leopold Gmelin, Friedrich Wöhler: Neue Cyanverbindungen, Schweiggers
Journ. 36 S. 230–235, 1822
Versuch eines neuen chemischen Mineralsystems, Taschenbuch gesammte
Mineralog. 19, I S. 322-334; 418-474; 490-507, 1825, II S. 33-77;
Friedrich Tiedemann, Leopold Gmelin: Die Verdauung nach Versuchen,
Heidelberg und Leipzig 1826, 2 Bde.
Lehrbuch der Chemie zum Gebrauche bei Vorlesungen auf Universitäten,
in Militärschulen, polytechnischen Anstalten, Realschulen etc. sowie
zum Selbstunterrichte, Heidelberg, Universitätsbuchhandlung Karl
Claude K. Deischer: Gmelin, Leopold. In: Complete Dictionary of
Scientific Biography. Band 5, Charles Scribner’s Sons, Detroit 2008,
S. 429–432 (online).
August Hirsch (1879), "Gmelin, Leopold", Allgemeine Deutsche
Biographie (ADB) (in German), 9, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot,
Erich Pietsch (1964), "Gmelin, Leopold", Neue Deutsche Biographie
(NDB) (in German), 6, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot,
pp. 480–481 ; (full text online)
Friedrich Rosmäsler: Gallerie der vorzüglichsten Ärzte und
Naturforscher Deutschlands. Perthes, Gotha 1831 (2 Bde.; darin
Bernd Wöbke (1988). "Das Portrait:
Leopold Gmelin (1788–1853)".
Chemie in unserer Zeit. 22 (6): 208–216.
Petra Renate Stumm:
Leopold Gmelin (1788–1853). Leben und Werk eines
Heidelberger Chemikers. Universität Heidelberg, Dissertation, 2011
Leopold Gmelin (1788–1853). Leben und Werk eines
Heidelberger Chemikers. Neuere Medizin- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte,
Centaurus Verlag & Media, Quellen und Studien Bd.33, 2012.
Erich Pietsch (1939). "
Leopold Gmelin – der Mensch, sein Werk und
seine Zeit". Berichte der deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft (A and B
Series). 72 (2): A5–A33. doi:10.1002/cber.19390720242.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Leopold Gmelin.
Who Named It biography
Literature by and about
Leopold Gmelin in the German National Library
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