Father of Chemistry: Jöns Jacob Berzelius

Jöns Jacob Berzelius. Lithograph by A. Farcy.Jöns Jacob Berzelius. Lithograph by A. Farcy. Image courtesy of Wellcome Library, London.  (CC BY-NC 2.0)

On 20th of August 1779 a boy was born without whom I couldn’t have written and shared this blog post. His name was Jöns Jacob Berzelius and he’s considered as one of the fathers of modern chemistry.

Jacob’s parents died when he was young so he was raised by relatives in Linköping, Sweden, where he attended the Cathedral School. In 1796 he went to Uppsala University to become a doctor of medicine. After graduating he worked for a while in Stockholm as a doctor, however industrialist Wilhelm Hisinger noticed his analytical abilities and sponsored him with a lab. His house-keeper Anna Sundström managed the lab and in time she was to become the first female chemist in Sweden!

So why couldn’t I have blogged this without Berzelius? During his career Berzelius discovered many elements. One of those elements, the one he discovered and isolated in 1824 and called Silicium, which today is known as Silicon. The uses of silicon are many, but perhaps most fundamental for our age is its use in semiconductors and integrated circuits and which forms the tiny building blocks of the processor powering the computer on which I write this blog post

As befitting a the Father of Chemistry we have many of his books and letters available in Europeana. You can catch a sample below or get a list of  all of them here. And by the way, there are three other 19th century chemists who are also considered fathers of modern chemistry – do you know their names?

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