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LOUIS ALEXANDRE BERTHIER

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Originally appearing in Volume V03, Page 812 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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LOUIS ALEXANDRE BERTHIER, prince of Neuchatel (1753–1815), marshal of France and chief of the staff under Napoleon I., was born at Versailles on the loth of February 1753. As a boy he was instructed in the military art by his father, an officer of the Corps de genie, and at the age of seventeen he entered the army, serving successively in the staff, the engineers and the prince de Lambesq's dragoons. In 178o he went to North America with Rochambeau, and on his return, having attained the rank of colonel, he was employed in various staff posts and in a military mission to Prussia. During the Revolution, as chief of staff of the Versailles national guard, he protected the aunts of Louis XVI. from popular violence, and aided their escape (1791). In the war of 1792 he was at once made chief of staff to Marshal Liickner, and he bore a distinguished part in the Argonne campaign of Dumouriez and Kellermann. He served with great credit in the Vendean War of 1793–95, and was in the next year made a general of division and' chief of staff (Major-General) to the army of Italy, which Bonaparte had recently been appointed to command. His power of work, accuracy and quick comprehension, combined with his long and varied experience and his complete mastery of detail, made him the ideal chief of staff to a great soldier; and in this capacity he was Napoleon's most valued assistant for the rest of his career. He accompanied Napoleon throughout the brilliant campaign of 1796, and was left in charge of the army after the peace of Campo Formio. In this post he organized the Roman republic (1798), after which he joined his chief in Egypt, serving there until Napoleon's return. He assisted in the coup d'etat of 18th Brumaire, afterwards becoming minister of war for a time. In the campaign of Marengo he was the nominal head of the Army of Reserve, but the first consul accompanied the army and Berthicr acted in reality, as always, as chief of staff to Napoleon. At the close of the campaign he was employed in civil and diplomatic business. When Napoleon became emperor, Berthier waS at once made a marshal of the empire. He took part in the campaigns of Austerlitz, Jena and Friedland, and was created duke of Valengin in 18o6, sovereign prince of Neuchatel in the same year and vice-constable of the empire in 1807. In 18o8 he served in the Peninsula, and in 1809 in the Austrian War, after which he was given the title of prince of Wagram. Berthier married a niece of the king of Bavaria. He was with Napoleon in Russia in 1812, Germany in 1813, and France in 1814, fulfilling, till the fall of the empire, the functions of " major-general " of the Grande Armee. He abandoned Napoleon to make his peace with Louis XVIII. in 1814, and accompanied the king in his solemn entry into Paris. During Napoleon's captivity in Elba, Berthier, whom he informed of his projects, was much perplexed as to his future course, and, being unwilling to commit himself, fell under the suspicion both of his old leader and of Louis XVIII. On Napoleon's return he withdrew to Bamberg, where he died on the ist of June 1815. The manner of his death is uncertain; according to some accounts he was assassinated by members of a secret society, others say that, maddened by the sight of Russian troops marching to invade France, he threw himself from his window and was killed. Berthier was not a great commander. When he was in temporary command in 1809 the French army in Bavaria underwent a series of reverses. Whatever merit as a general he may have possessed was completely overshadowed by the genius of his master. But his title to fame is that he understood and carried out that master's directions to the minutest detail. ' . BERTHOLLET, CLAUDE LOUIS (1748-1822), French chemist, was born at Talloire, near Annecy in Savoy, on the gth of December 1748. He studied first at Chambery and afterwards at Turin, where he graduated in medicine. Settling in Paris in 1712, he became the private physician of Philip, duke of Orleans, and by his chemical work soon gained so high a reputation that in 1780 he was admitted into the Academy of Sciences. In 1785 he declared himself an adherent of the Lavoisierian school, though he did not accept Lavoisier's view of oxygen as the only and universal acidifying principle, and he took part in the reform in chemical nomenclature carried out by Lavoisier and his associates in 1787. Among the substances cf which he investigated the composition were ammonia, sulphuretted hydrogen and prussic acid, and his experiments on chlorine, which he regarded, not as an element, but as oxygenated muriatic (oxymuriatic) acid, led him to propose at as a bleaching agent in 1785. He also prepared potassium chlorate and attempted to use it in the manufacture of gunpowder as a substitute for saltpetre. When, at the beginning of the French Revolution, the deficiency in the supply of saltpetre became a serious matter, he was placed at the head of the commission entrusted with the development of its production in French territory, and another commission on which he served had for its object the improvement of the methods of iron manufacture. He was also a member in 1794 of the committee on agriculture and the arts, and technical science was further indebted to him for a systematic exposition of the principles of dyeing—Elemens de l' art de la teinlure, 1791, of which he published a second edition in 1809, in association with his son, A. B. Berthollet (1783-1811). After 1794 he was teacher of chemistry in the polytechnic and normal schools of Paris, and in 1795 he took an active part in remodelling the Academy as the Institut National. In the following year he and Gaspard Monge were chosen chiefs of a commission charged with the task of selecting in Italy the choicest specimens of ancient and modern art for the national galleries of Paris; and in 1798 he was one of the band of scientific men who accompanied Napoleon to Egypt, there forming themselves into the Institute of Egypt on the plan of the Institut National. On the fall of the Directory he was made a senator and grand officer of the Legion of Honour; under the empire he became a count; and after the restoration of the Bourbons he took his seat as a peer. In the later years of his life he had at Arcueil, where he died on the 6th of November 1822, a well-equipped laboratory, which became a centre frequented by some of the most distinguished scientific men of the time, their proceedings being published in three volumes, between 1807 and 1817, as the Memoires de la societe d'Arcueil. Berthollet's most remarkable contribution to chemistry was his Essai de statique chimique (1803), the first systematic attempt to grapple with the problems of chemical physics. His doctrines did not meet with general approval among his contemporaries, partly perhaps because he pushed them too far, as for instance in holding that two elements might combine in constantly varying proportions, a view which gave rise to a long dispute with L. J. Proust; but his speculations, in particular his insistence on the influence of the relative masses of the acting substances in chemical reactions, have exercised a dominating influence on the modern developments of the theory of chemical affinity, of which, far more than T. O. Bergman, whom he controverted, he must be regarded as the founder.
End of Article: LOUIS ALEXANDRE BERTHIER
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