Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Pierre-Joseph Pelletier

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 11
Pierre-Joseph Pelletier

by Thomas O'Conor Sloane


Born in Paris, 22 March, 1788; died there, 19 July, 1842. His father, Bertrand Pelletier, a pharmacist and a follower of Lavoisier, filled several government offices in France after the Revolution, dying at the early age of thirty-six. Like his father, the son showed precocity in science and followed in his steps in the doctrines of Lavoisier. The son's attention was directed to materia medica and to the vegetable alkaloids. He was associated with Caventou in the discovery of quinine in 1829 and without any thought of possible remuneration, if the discovery was kept secret, published his results to the world. It was in 1827 that the Montyon prize of 10,000 francs was awarded to him by the Paris Academy of Science for the discovery, this being the sole reward for so great an achievement. Strychnine was another of his discoveries and his memoir on the subject was published in Paris in 1818. He was professor in the Ecole de pharmacie in Paris and in 1832 became one of its adjunct directors. He was appointed a member of the Conseil de salubrité of Paris and held other positions of honour. In 1840 he was elected to the Academy of Sciences. The natural alkaloid-pelletierine-and three others were named after him by their discoverer, Tauret. Among his works may be cited: "Notice sur la matière verte des feuilles", in collaboration with Caventou (Paris, 1817); "Analyse chimique des quinquinas" (Paris, 1821); "Notice sur les recherches chimiques" (Paris, 1829), etc. Pelletier, as Cauchy testifies, was a convinced Catholic.

La grande encyclopédie; LAROUSSE, Dictionnaire universel; KNELLER, Das Christentum (2nd ed., Freiburg, 1904).

T. O'CONOR SLOANE