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Henri-Etienne Sainte-Claire Deville

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Chemist, b. at St. Thomas, West Indies, 11 March, 1818; d. at Boulogne, 1 July, 1881; brother of the preceding. Finishing his classical studies in Paris, he built himself a laboratory there and worked for eight years without teachers or students. He acquired much fame by his work, and in 1844 the government entrusted him with the organization of the faculty of sciences of Besançon. He was professor and dean there from 1845 to 1851. In 1851 he was called to Paris as maître des conférences in the Ecole Normale Supérieure replacing Balard. In 1853 he replaced Dumas in the Sorbonne and succeeded him as professor in 1859. In 1861 he was made a member of the Academy of Sciences. His work in mineral chemistry entitles him to be considered one of the great chemists of the second half of the nineteenth century. He discovered the phenomenon of dissociation, his first notion of this going back to 1857. He discovered nitrogen pentoxide, the anhydride of nitric acid. Woehler, the great German chemist, had discovered aluminum in 1827. Deville worked on the metallurgy of the metal, and devised a means of preparing it by decomposing aluminium sodium chloride with metallic sodium. This was the first commercial process of producing the metal, which was for some time almost a curiosity, but whose uses are now so extensive. Napoleon III was greatly interested in the new metal, the "silver of clay". Debray was associated with him in his work; and it is interesting to see how, after over fifty-six years, the metal has been introduced on a large scale into mechanical use. In the technical field he worked upon the use of petroleum and heavy oils as fuels, where he was also a leader in one of the prominent movements of the present day, the use of crude petroleum as fuel for the production of steam. Many of his memoirs are published in the "Comptes rendues" and "Annales". Among his works we may cite: "De l'aluminium, ses propriétés, sa fabrication" (Paris, 1859); Métallurgie du platine et des métaux qui l'accompangnent" (Paris, 1863).

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