The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Wöhler, Friedrich

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WÖHLER, Friedrich, a German chemist, born at Eschersheim, near Frankfort, July 31, 1800. He studied at the gymnasium of Frankfort, where chemical experiments became a passion with him, and at the university of Marburg, where he succeeded in preparing some iodide of cyanogen, without being aware that Sir H. Davy had anticipated him in the discovery. After spending one year at Marburg, he went to Heidelberg, where in Gmelin's laboratory he prepared cyanic acid, an account of which was published in Gilbert's Annalen. He graduated as doctor of medicine and surgery in September, 1823, and spent a year in chemical investigations in the laboratory of Berzelius in Stockholm. In 1824 he made the tour of Sweden and Norway with Berzelius and Alexandre and Adolphe Brongniart. He returned to Frankfort in October, and undertook to continue the translation of Berzelius's Jahresbericht which Gmelin had begun. There he met Liebig, in association with whom he carried on many of his most important researches. On the foundation of the Gewerbschule in Berlin in March, 1825, Wöhler was appointed instructor in chemistry, and in 1827 he was made professor. He resigned in 1831 and removed to Cassel, where he occupied himself with the translation of the third edition of Berzelius's Lehrbuch der Chemie, and with the Jahresbericht. The large supply of arsenical nickel which had accumulated as an incidental product at some chemical works in Hesse-Cassel attracted his notice, and he soon devised a plan for reclaiming the nickel, which has since proved of great practical value. While residing in Cassel he aided in establishing the Gewerbschule of that city, and he held the chair of chemistry in it for several years. In 1836 he was appointed professor of chemistry at the university of Göttingen, where he still remains (1876). He has been seven times elected dean of the medical faculty, and in 1860 was appointed permanent secretary of tho royal Hanoverian academy of sciences. In 1873 the 50th anniversary of his doctorate was celebrated at the university, and in 1875 the 50th year of his active career as a teacher and the 75th year of his age. The principal published works of Wöhler, besides the above mentioned translations from Berzelius, are his Lehrbuch der Chemie, Grundriss der unorganischen Chemie, Grundriss der organischen Chemie, and Mineral-Analyse in Beispielen. From 1836 he was associated with Liebig as editor of the Handwörterbuch der Chemie, and from 1838 of the Annalen der Chemie und Pharmacie. During the last 50 years he has published in Gilbert's, Poggendorff's, and Liebig's Annalen more than 250 papers on chemical subjects. Among his principal discoveries are the isolation of aluminum in 1827, of glucinum and yttrium in 1828, the artificial production of formic acid in 1829, and his investigations on nickel in 1832. But his most important contribution to science was the artificial production of urea in 1828. This was tho first instance of the preparation of an organic compound by synthesis, and may be said to have laid the foundation of modern research in organic chemistry.