1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Adipocere

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ADIPOCERE (from the Lat. adeps, fat, and cera, wax), a substance into which animal matter is sometimes converted, and so named by A. F. Fourcroy, from its resemblance to both fat and wax. When the Cimetière des Innocens at Paris was removed in 1786-1787, great masses of this substance were found where the coffins containing the dead bodies had been placed very closely together. The whole body had been converted into this fatty matter, except the bones, which remained, but were extremely brittle. Chemically, adipocere consists principally of a mixture of fatty acids, glycerine being absent. Saponification with potash liberates a little ammonia (about 1%), and gives a mixture of the potassium salts of palmitic, margaric and oxymargaric acids. The insoluble residue consists of lime, &c., derived from the tissues. The artificial formation of adipocere has been studied; it appears that it is not formed from albuminous matter, but from the various fats in the body collecting together and undergoing decomposition.