Saturday, May 20, 2023

Carl Wilhelm Scheele (1742-1786) - Swedish German chemist

Carl Wilhelm Scheele was born in Stralsund in Pomerania which was German-speaking even though it was a part of Sweden. His parentage was German, and throughout his life he used this language to write down his laboratory notes.

Wilhelm left school aged fourteen and he moved to Goteborg to replace his brother Johann Martin, who had been· a pharmacist apprentice and who had died at the age of twenty. There he developed an interest in chemistry and apparently carried out experiments late in the night using the chemicals available in the pharmacy. He also read widely including the work of Georg Ernst Stahl (1659 –1734), who was one of the main proponents of the phlogiston theory.

The apothecary was sold in 1765. He then went to work with an apothecary called Kjellström who also had scientific interests at the Spread-Eagle Apothecary in Malmö. There Scheele also made contact with Anders Retzius, who was a prominent chemist at Lund University.

A little later Scheele went to Stockholm to work in another Pharmacy. In 1770 he moved to Uppsala, where he worked in the pharmacy for Christian Ludwig Lokk, who provided him with a workbench and allowed him one day a week for research.

From the start he studied the materials that were available at apothecaries. This would form the foundation for his future work in organic chemistry and mineralogy. Over the years he developed a significant ability to experiment with organic substances without spoiling the inherent materials.

Living only for 44 years, this Swedish pharmacist discovered more elements (seven) than any other scientist -all before the era of modem chemistry of Lavoisier's Traite.

Scheele’s work in chemical mineral analysis led to a number of discoveries, including several metal acids and metals such as molybdenum, manganese and tungsten.

Scheele also discovered a score of fundamental organic compounds and gases including tartaric acid, lactic acid, oxalic acid, citric acid, malic acid, uric acid, casein, glycerol, hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen fluoride, and hydrogen cyanide. Scheele also has an important place in the history of the discovery of respiratory gases because he was undoubtedly the first person to prepare oxygen and describe some of its properties.

Scheele produced oxygen by heating a variety of substances including mercuric oxide, as did Priestley. Scheele also obtained the gas by heating potassium nitrate, silver carbonate, manganese nitrate, and manganese oxide.
Carl Wilhelm Scheele (1742-1786) - Swedish German chemist

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