Charles Adolph Wurtz

Wurtz, Charles Adolph


Born Nov. 26, 1817, in Strasbourg; died May 12, 1884, in Paris. French chemist. Member of the Paris Academy of Sciences (1867) and corresponding member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (1873).

Wurtz was awarded the degree of doctor of medicine in 1843; he studied chemistry with J. von Liebig in Giessen and with J. B. Dumas in Paris. In 1853 he became a professor of chemistry at the Ecole de Médecine in Paris. His works dealt mainly with organic chemistry, which he enriched by the discovery of new compounds and new general synthetic methods. In 1849, Wurtz obtained methylamine and ethylamine, the simplest aliphatic amines, by treating methyl and ethyl isocyanates and isocyanurates with potassium hydroxide. In 1855 he proposed a general method (later named after him) for synthesizing saturated hydrocarbons by treating alkyl halides with metallic sodium. In 1856 he synthesized ethylene glycol, the first of the atomic alcohols, or glycols, and in 1859, ethylene chlorohydrin and ethylene oxide, the last by treating ethylene chlorohydrin with potassium hydroxide. Ethylene oxide served Wurtz as a starting material for the synthesis of amino alcohols, choline (1867), and neurine (1869). In 1867, Wurtz obtained phenol (carbolic acid) by fusing together benzenesulfonic acid and caustic alkali. In 1872 he described the aldol condensation. Wurtz was a staunch advocate of the advanced chemical trends of his time—the atomic-molecular doctrine and A. M. Butlerov’s theory of chemical structure—and widely promoted these ideas. He understood the enormous significance of D. I. Mendeleev’s periodic law and assisted in gaining its acceptance abroad. In his day all of Wurtz’ textbooks and monographs were widely known.


In Russian translation:
Lektsii po nekotorym voprosam teoreticheskoi khimii. St. Petersburg, 1865.
Istoriia khimicheskikh doktrin ot Lavuaz’e i do nashego vremeni, fascicle 1. Translated under the editorship of A. M. Butlerov. St. Petersburg, 1869.


Musabekov, Iu. S. Sharl’ Adolf Viurts. Moscow, 1963.
Pogodin, S. A. “Vystuplenie russkikh khimikov—N. I. Zinina, A. M. Butlerova, D. I. Mendeleeva, i A. N. Engel’gardta— protiv natsionalizma i shovinizma v nauk.” Uspekhi khimii, 1946, vol. 15, issue 5.
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