Scheele, Karl Wilhelm


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Scheele, Karl Wilhelm

(kärl vĭl`hĕlm shā`lə), 1742–86, Swedish chemist, b. Stralsund. He is known as the discoverer of many chemical substances. He was a pharmacist in Stockholm, in Uppsala (1770–75), and then in Köping. He prepared and studied oxygen c.1773, but his account in Chemical Observations and Experiments on Air and Fire (1777, tr. 1780) appeared after the publication of Joseph Priestley's studies. He discovered nitrogen independently of Daniel Rutherford and showed it to be a constituent of air. His treatise on manganese (1774) was influential in leading to the discovery of that element as well as to the discovery of barium and chlorine. He also isolated glycerin and many acids, including tartaric, lactic, uric, prussic, citric, and gallic.

Bibliography

See his Collected Papers (tr. 1931, repr. 1971).

Scheele, Karl Wilhelm

 

Born Dec. 9,1742, in Stralsund; died May 21, 1786, in Köping. Swedish chemist. Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (1775).

Trained as a pharmacist, Scheele worked in apothecary shops in various Swedish cities, where he also carried out chemical research beginning in 1757. He discovered many inorganic and organic substances. He showed (1774) that pyrolusite, a naturally occurring manganese dioxide considered to be a variety of magnetic iron ore, is a compound of an unknown metal. He obtained chlorine by the action of hydrochloric acid on pyrolusite during heating (1774) and glycerin by the action of lead oxide on plant oils and animal fats. From natural molybdenite and tungsten minerals (scheelite) he obtained the corresponding molybdic (1778) and tungstic (1781) anhydrides. He discovered silicon tetra-fluoride (1771), barium oxide (1774), hydrogen arsenide (1775), and a number of acids, including tartaric acid (1769), fluosilicic and hydrofluoric acids (1771), arsenic acid (1775), and oxalic (1776), lactic (1780), and prussic (1782) acids. He discovered (1777; at the same time as F. Fontana) the ability of freshly roasted charcoal to absorb gases.

In the work Chemical Treatise on Air and Fire, Scheele described the preparation and properties of “fire air” and showed that atmospheric air is composed of two “types of air”: “fire air” (oxygen) and “phlogisticated air” (nitrogen). However, J. Priestley is credited with the discovery of oxygen (1774), since Scheele’s work was not published until 1777.

WORKS

Manuskript 1756–1777. Edited by C. W. Ossen. [Uppsala, 1942.]
Chemische Abhandlung von der Luft und der Feuer. Leipzig, 1894.
Nachgelassene Briefe und Aufzeichnungen. Edited by A. E. Nordenskiöld. Stockholm, 1892. (Contains a biographical sketch and bibliography of Scheele’s works.)

REFERENCE

Figurovskii, N. A. Ocherk obshchei istorii khimii: Ot drevneishikh vremen do nachala XIX v. Moscow, 1969.