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Chevreul, Michel Eugène

fats fatty acid acids

[shevroei] (1786–1889) French organic chemist: investigated fats and natural dyes.

A surgeon’s son, Chevreul learned chemistry as assistant to , and by 1824 became director of dyeing at the famed Gobelins tapestry factory. His best-known work is on animal fats, which he showed by 1823 could be separated into pure individual substances that, with acid or alkali, break down to give glycerol and a fatty acid. (The fatty acids were later shown to be long-chain monocarboxylic acids.) Chevreul showed that soap-making (saponification) of animal fats by alkali could be understood and improved chemically, and that soaps are sodium salts of fatty acids. In 1825 Chevreul with patented a method of making candles using ‘stearin’ (crude stearic acid) in place of tallow, which was odorous, less luminous and unreliable; when developed, the improvement was of substantial importance. Chevreul showed that the urine of diabetic patients contained grape-sugar (ie glucose). He worked on organic analysis and the chemistry of drying oils (used in paints), on waxes and natural dyes; on theories of colour; on the use of divining rods and (after he was 90) on the psychological effects of ageing. As a child of 7, he had watched the guillotine in action; after his centenary, he watched the construction of the Eiffel Tower. He never retired.

Chic [next] [back] Cherubini, (Maria) Luigi (Carlo Zenobio Salvatore)

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