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Vauquelin, Louis Nicolas

beryllium chromium metal isolate

[vohklî] (1763–1829) French analytical chemist: discoverer of chromium and beryllium.

As a boy Vauquelin worked in the fields with his peasant father; he did well at school, and at 14 was sent to work in an apothecary’s shop, at first in Rouen and then in Paris. Soon the chemist A F de Fourcroy (1755–1809) heard of his enthusiasm for chemistry and took him on as an assistant, and later as a friend and co-worker. Vauquelin rescued a Swiss soldier from a mob during the French Revolution, and as a result had to leave Paris in 1793; but he soon returned and in 1809 he succeeded Fourcroy as professor there.

In 1797 he examined the rare, brilliant orange mineral crocoite and discovered in it a new metal, which he named chromium. Crocoite is actually lead chromate, PbCrO4 ; Vauquelin obtained Cr2O3 from it and, by strongly heating this with charcoal, secured the metal as a powder. The next year he studied specimens of the minerals beryl and emerald sent to him by the mineralogist , who suspected from their crystal forms that they were chemically identical. Vauquelin proved that this was correct and that emerald owes its green colour to traces of chromium; both minerals are beryllium aluminosilicate. He realized that a new metal (beryllium) was present, which he was not able to isolate; this was achieved in 1828 by . Vauquelin was also the first to isolate an amino acid; this was asparagine, which he got from asparagus.

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