The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Bergman, Torbern Olof

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BERGMAN, Torbern Olof, Swedish natural philosopher and chemist: b. Katharinberg, West Gothland, 20 March 1735; d. 1784. Sent to Upsala with a view to preparaing either for the Church or the bar, he, disliking both, gave his attention to natural history, physics and mathematics. He soon made important discoveries in entomology and became noted as an astronomical observer. In 1758 he became doctor of philosophy and professor of physics at Upsala. Upon the resignation of the celebrated Wallerius, Bergman was a candidate for the professorship of chemistry and mineralogy. His competitors charged him with ignorance of the subject, because he had never written on it. To refute them he shut himself up for some time in a laboratory, and prepared a treatise on the manufacture of alum, which is still considered as a standard work. In 1767 he became professor of chemistry, and devoted himself with ardor to this science. He invented the preparation of artificial mineral waters, and discovered the sulphuretted hydrogen gas of mineral springs. We are indebted to him for a knowledge of the characters which distinguish nickel from other metals. On a number of minerals he made chemical experiments, with an accuracy before uncommon. He published a classification of minerals, in which the chief divisions are based on their chemical character, and the subdivisions on their external form. In preparing this work he was much aided by his former discoverer of the geometrical relations between different crystals of the same substance, which may be deduced from one primitive form, and are produced by the aggregation of similar particles, according to fixed and obvious laws. His theory of the chemical relations is still esteemed, and although it has received new developments from the further researches of Berthollet, has not been overthrown. The order of Gustavus Vasa was bestowed on Bergman. Among his works the first place is due to ‘Opuscula Physica, Chemica, et Mineralia’ (Upsala 1779-94), of which an English translation appeared. His famous essay on ‘Elective Affinities’ was translated into English by Dr. Beddoes.