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Robert Bunsen: Wikis


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Robert Bunsen

Born 30 March 1811(1811-03-30)
Göttingen, Kingdom of Hanover, Germany
Died 16 August 1899 (aged 88)
Heidelberg, Germany
Residence Germany
Nationality German
Fields Chemist
Institutions Polytechnic School of Kassel
University of Marburg
University of Heidelberg
University of Breslau
Alma mater University of Göttingen
Doctoral advisor Friedrich Stromeyer
Doctoral students Adolf von Baeyer

Fritz Haber
Philipp Lenard
Georg Ludwig Carius
Hermann Kolbe
Adolf Lieben
Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig
Viktor Meyer
Friedrich Konrad Beilstein
Henry Enfield Roscoe
John Tyndall
Edward Frankland
Dmitri Mendeleev
Thomas Edward Thorpe

Francis Robert Japp
Known for Discovery of cacodyl radical; discoveries of caesium and rubidium; Bunsen burner; carbon-zinc electrochemical cell; methods of gas analysis; development of spectrochemical analysis
Notable awards Copley medal (1860)

Robert Wilhelm Eberhard Bunsen (30 March 1811[1] ‚Äď 16 August 1899) was a German chemist. He investigated emission spectra of heated elements, and with Gustav Kirchhoff discovered caesium (in 1860) and rubidium (in 1861). Bunsen developed several gas-analytical methods, was a pioneer in photochemistry, and did early work in the field of organoarsenic chemistry. With his laboratory assistant, Peter Desaga, he developed the Bunsen burner, an improvement on the laboratory burners then in use. The Bunsen-Kirchhoff Award for spectroscopy is named after Bunsen and his colleague, Gustav Kirchhoff.


Life and work

Bunsen was born in G√∂ttingen, Germany. He was the youngest of four sons of the University of G√∂ttingen's chief librarian and professor of modern philology, Christian Bunsen (1770‚Äď1837).[2] After attending school in Holzminden, in 1828 Bunsen matriculated at G√∂ttingen and studied chemistry with Friedrich Stromeyer, obtaining the Ph.D. degree in 1831. In 1832 and 1833 he traveled in Germany, France, and Austria, where he met Friedrich Runge (who discovered aniline and in 1819 isolated caffeine), Justus von Liebig in Gie√üen, and Eilhard Mitscherlich in Bonn.


University teacher

In 1833 Bunsen became a lecturer at Göttingen and began experimental studies of the (in)solubility of metal salts of arsenous acid. Today, his discovery of the use of iron oxide hydrate as a precipitating agent is still the best-known antidote against arsenic poisoning. In 1836, Bunsen succeeded Friedrich Wöhler at the Polytechnic School of Kassel. Bunsen taught there for three years, and then accepted an associate professorship at the University of Marburg, where he studied cacodyl derivatives. He was promoted to full professor in 1841. Bunsen's work brought him quick and wide acclaim, partly because cacodyl, which is extremely toxic and undergoes spontaneous combustion in dry air, is so difficult to work with. Bunsen almost died from arsenic poisoning, and an explosion with cacodyl cost him sight in his right eye. In 1841, Bunsen created the Bunsen cell battery, using a carbon electrode instead of the expensive platinum electrode used in William Robert Grove's electrochemical cell. Early in 1851 he accepted a professorship at the University of Breslau, where he taught for three semesters.

 Black-and-white image of two middle-aged men, either one leaning with one elbow on a wooden column in the middle. Both wear long jackets, and the shorter man on the left has a beard.
Gustav Kirchhoff (left) and Robert Bunsen (right)

In late 1852 Bunsen became the successor of Leopold Gmelin at the University of Heidelberg. There he used electrolysis to produce pure metals, such as chromium, magnesium, aluminium, manganese, sodium, barium, calcium and lithium. A long collaboration with Henry Enfield Roscoe began in 1852, in which they studied the photochemical formation of hydrogen chloride from hydrogen and chlorine.

Bunsen discontinued his work with Roscoe in 1859 and joined Gustav Kirchhoff to study emission spectra of heated elements, a research area called spectrum analysis. For this work, Bunsen and his laboratory assistant, Peter Desaga, had perfected a special gas burner by 1855, influenced by earlier models. The newer design of Bunsen and Desaga, which provided a very hot and clean flame, is now called simply the "Bunsen burner".[3][4]

In 1860, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.rob was pretty gay

Retirement and death

When Bunsen retired at the age of 78, he shifted his work solely to geology and mineralogy, an interest which he had pursued throughout his career. He died in Heidelberg, aged 88, and was buried there.


Bunsen was one of the most universally admired scientists of his generation. He was a master teacher, devoted to his students, and they were equally devoted to him. At a time of vigorous and often caustic scientific debates, Bunsen always conducted himself as a perfect gentleman, maintaining his distance from theoretical disputes. He much preferred to work quietly in his laboratory, regularly enriching his science with useful discoveries. On a point of principle, he never took out a patent, despite the fact that his new battery and new laboratory burner would surely have brought him great wealth.

Notes and references

  1. ^ Although Bunsen's birth date appears as 31 March in many otherwise reliable references, Bunsen himself cited his birth date as 30 March in two curriculum vitae, written respectively in 1851 and 1856. See Christine Stock's correspondence edition, pp. xxix-xxx, cited in Further Reading.
  2. ^ "Professor Robert W. Bunsen". The Journal of the American Chemical Society 23: 89 ‚Äď 107. 1900. Retrieved 2007-09-11. 
  3. ^ Jensen, William B. (2005). "The Origin of the Bunsen Burner". Journal of Chemical Education 82 (4). 
  4. ^ See Michael Faraday's Chemical Manipulation, Being Instructions to Students in Chemistry (1827)

Further reading

  • Gasometry: Comprising the Leading Physical and Chemical Properties of Gases by Robert Bunsen; translated by Henry Roscoe. London: Walton and Maberly, 1857
    Bunsen's grave in Heidelberg's Bergfriedhof
  • Robert Wilhelm Bunsen, by G. Lockeman, 1949.
  • Sir Henry Roscoe's "Bunsen Memorial Lecture," in: Trans. Chem. Soc., 1900, reprinted (in German) with other obituary notices in an edition of Bunsen's collected works published by Wilhelm Ostwald and Max Bodenstein in 3 vols. at Leipzig in 1904. This is Gesammelte Abhandlungen von Robert Bunsen: im Auftrage der Deutschen Bunsen-Gesellschaft f√ľr angewandte Physikalische Chemie hrsg. von Wilhelm Ostwald und Max Bodenstein. 3 B√§nde. Leipzig: W. Engelmann, 1904
  • Crew, H. (1899). "Robert Wilhelm Bunsen". The Astrophysical Journal 10: 301 ‚Äď 305. doi:10.1086/140654. Retrieved 2008-09-12. 
  • Robert Wilhelm Bunsens Korrespondenz, edited by Christine Stock, Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft Stuttgart, 2007.

External links


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