1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Döbereiner, Johann Wolfgang
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Döbereiner, Johann Wolfgang
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DÖBEREINER, JOHANN WOLFGANG (1780-1849), German chemist, was born near Hof in Bavaria on the 15th of December 1780. After studying pharmacy at Münchberg, he started a chemical manufactory in 1803, and in 1810 was appointed professor of chemistry, pharmacy and technology at Jena, where he died on the 24th of March 1849. The Royal Society’s Catalogue enumerates 171 papers by him on various chemical topics, but his name is best known for his experiments on platinum in a minute state of division and on the oxidation products of alcohol. In 1822 he showed that when a mass of platinum black, supplied with alcohol by a wick is enclosed in a jar to which the air has limited access, acetic acid and water are produced; this experiment formed the basis of the Schützenbach Quick Vinegar Process. A year later he noticed that spongy platinum in presence of oxygen can bring about the ignition of hydrogen, and utilized this fact to construct his “hydrogen lamp,” the prototype of numerous devices for the self-ignition of coal-gas burners. He studied the formation of aldehyde from alcohol by various methods, also obtaining its crystalline compound with ammonia, and he was the discoverer of furfurol. An early observation of the diffusion of gases was recorded by him in 1823 when he noticed the escape of hydrogen from a cracked jar, attributing it to the capillary action of fissures. His works included treatises on pneumatic chemistry (1821-1825) and the chemistry of fermentation (1822).
A correspondence which he carried on with Goethe and Charles August, grand-duke of Saxe-Weimar, was collected and published at Weimar by Schade in 1856.