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Pelletier, Pierre-Joseph

isolated methods

[peltyay] (1788–1842) French chemist: founder of alkaloid chemistry.

Pelletier followed the family profession of pharmacy and studied at the École de Pharmacie in Paris, and afterwards taught there. From about 1809 he began to examine natural products, using mild methods of separation (mainly solvent extraction) rather than the older methods such as destructive distillation. An early success was his isolation of chlorophyll from green leaves; and in 1817 with he isolated the emetic substance from ipecacuanha root and named it emetine. In the next few years he isolated a series of ‘vegetable bases’ from plants; they are the cyclic nitrogenous bases now known as alkaloids, which often show potent physiological properties. With his friend J Caventou (1795–1877) he isolated strychnine, brucine, colchicine, veratrine and cinchonine, and (later) piperine and caffeine. Their most valuable discovery was quinine from cinchona bark (1820), which for a century was the only effective treatment for malaria and was almost the earliest chemotherapeutic agent in the modern sense.

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