1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Marignac, Jean Charles Galissard de

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MARIGNAC, JEAN CHARLES GALISSARD DE (1817–1894), Swiss chemist, was born at Geneva on the 24th of April 1817. When sixteen years old he began to attend the École Polytechnique in Paris, and from 1837 to 1839 studied at the École des Mines. Then, after a short time in Liebig’s laboratory at Giessen, and in the Sèvres porcelain factory, he became in 1841 professor of chemistry in the academy of Geneva. In 1845 he was appointed professor of mineralogy also, and held both chairs till 1878, when ill-health obliged him to resign. He died at Geneva on the 15th of April 1894. Marignac’s name is well known for the careful and exact determinations of atomic weights which he carried out for twenty-eight of the elements. In undertaking this work he had, like J. S. Stas, the purpose of testing Prout’s hypothesis, but he remained more disposed than the Belgian chemist to consider the possibility that it may have some degree of validity. Throughout his life he paid great attention to the “rare earths” and the problem of separating and distinguishing them; in 1878 he extracted ytterbia from what was supposed to be pure erbia, and two years later found gadolinia and samaria in the samarskite earths. In 1858 he pointed out the isomorphism of the fluostannates and the fluosilicates, thus settling the then vexed question of the composition of silicic acid; and subsequently he studied the fluosalts of zirconium, boron, tungsten, &c., and prepared silicotungstic acid, one of the first examples of the complex inorganic acids. In physical chemistry he carried out many researches on the nature and process of solution, investigating in particular the thermal effects produced by the dilution of saline solutions, the variation of the specific heat of saline solutions with temperature and concentration, and the phenomena of liquid diffusion.

A memorial lecture by P. T. Cleve, printed in the Journal of the London Chemical Society for 1895, contains a list of Marignac’s papers.