Jean Baptiste Dumas
- Category : Chemist
- Type : GP
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Split - Large
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Maya 2
French chemist who pioneered in organic chemistry.
In 1816 Dumas traveled to Geneva where he studied pharmacy, chemistry, and botany. His name appeared on journal articles in pharmacy and physiology before he was out of his teens.
In 1822 he became professor of chemistry at the Athenaeum, only the first of many academic appointments he would hold—at the Sorbonne, the École Polytechnique, and the École de Médecine. Dumas established a teaching laboratory, initially at his own expense. He was a masterful teacher, serving as mentor to many important French chemists, including Auguste Laurent, Charles-Adolphe Wurtz, and Louis Pasteur.
In 1832 Dumas became a member of the French Academy of Sciences and in 1875 he was a member of the French Academy. From 1868 until his death in 1884 he would serve the academy as the permanent secretary for its department of Physical Sciences. In 1838, Dumas was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Dumas greatly improved the method of determining the vapour density of substances (and thus their relative molecular masses), and he developed a combustion method for determining nitrogen in organic compounds. He produced revised atomic weights for about 30 elements, including carbon, studied the structure of dyes and pharmaceuticals, and wrote on inorganic chemistry, metallurgy, and physiology.
After the Revolutions of 1848, he was elected to the new National Assembly. Dumas served as both minister of agriculture and of commerce in 1850–51, and when Louis became Emperor Napoleon III, Dumas became a senator in the Second Empire. He was on the municipal council of Paris for many years and became its president (in effect, the mayor) in 1859. He worked with the great city planner Baron Haussmann on the restructuring of the city, including the improvement of drainage and lighting and the beginnings of the modern water-supply system. The emperor called him “the poet of hygiene.”
In 1868 Dumas was made permanent secretary of the Academy of Sciences and was also appointed master of the mint. The tumultuous birth of the Third Republic in 1870 led to his withdrawal from public life and his return to scientific work. He received many honours during his long and varied career; perhaps the highest tribute came from Wurtz, who called him “the founder of organic chemistry.”
One marriage, two children.
Dumas died 10 April 1884, Cannes.
His is one of the 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel tower.