Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Baron Louis-Jacques Thénard

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 14
Baron Louis-Jacques Thénard

by Thomas O'Conor Sloane


Chemist, b. at Louptière, near Nogent-sur-Seine, Aube, France, on 4 May, 1777; d. at Paris, 21 June, 1857. In 1865 his native village obtained the right to add his name, so the place is now known as Louptière-Thénard. When quite young he went to Paris, and sought permission to work at chemistry with Vauquelin as his master. It was only by the intercession of the sisters of the great chemist that he was taken into the laboratory, Vauquelin like him being very poor. He was unable to pay the small regular fee of twenty francs a month. After three years' work, when he undertook to lecture, his provincial accent and appearance told against him, and he made the most earnest efforts to overcome these defects. He cut down his meagre expenses in order to save enough to go to the theatre and hear the actors. His first original memoir was published in 1799, and for half a century he continued to pour out a flood of contributions to the science of chemistry. In a single month at the request of the Minister of the interior he invented Thénard blue, a pigment for the use of the great Sèvres factory. The base of this is cobalt. He was intimately associated in his scientific work with Gay-Lussac for many years. In 1813 he published his "Treatise on Chemistry", which for twenty-five years had a great vogue, so that it was said that nearly all Europe learned chemistry from Thénard. After many honours he was elected to a seat in the Academy of Sciences. He at once set off for his home to receive the congratulations of his aged mother. He had found a copy of "The Imitation of Christ" in large print, that his mother could read without glasses. This he took with him, and he used to say that the finding of this book with its large type was one of his great discoveries. His work covered so great a range that there is not room here to tell of it. Dioxides of hydrogen was one of his best-known discoveries; he worked on the electrolysis of the oxides at the same time as Sir Humphry Davy, discovered boron, and came near antedating Davy in the isolation of chlorine. Most of his family died before him and his last years were filled with sadness. He was made a baron by Charles X in 1825 and served in the legislature.

Funeral eulogiums by SAINT HILAIRE and PELOUZE in Comptes rendus de l'Academie des sciences (1857), 1286 sqq.

T. O'CONOR SLOANE