Antoine Lavoisier was a French chemist and nobleman. He played a crucial role during the chemical revolution of the 18th-century. Widely regarded as the father of modern chemistry, Lavoisier had a major influence on the history of biology as well as the history of chemistry. He also helped build the metric system.
Marie Curie and Pierre Curie’s daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, herself a brilliant scientist, won the 1935 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with her husband, Joliot-Curie, for discovering artificial radioactivity. She was also one of the first three female French government members. She tragically died of leukemia caused by exposure to radiation.
Known for his pathbreaking Gay-Lussac's Law, French chemist-physicist Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac was also the first, along with his colleague Alexander von Humboldt, to discover that water is composed of one part of oxygen and two parts of hydrogen. His name is one of the 72 that adorn the Eiffel Tower.
Éleuthère Irénée du Pont was the founder of the American gunpowder company E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company and the patriarch of the famous du Pont family of businessmen. Born in France, du Pont had escaped to the U.S. with his family during the French Revolution.
Best known for developing the Langevin dynamics and the Langevin equation, physicist Paul Langevin was also a staunch Communist. Having worked on his doctoral thesis under Pierre Curie, he had formed a connection with Curie’s wife, Marie Curie, which developed into a full-blown love affair after Pierre’s death.
Best known for developing the Charles’s law, which explains the expansion of gases when heated, Jacques Charles was a prominent French physicist. He was the first to ascend in a hydrogen-filled gas balloon, thus pioneering hot-air balloon flight. The Académie des Sciences member later became a professor of physics.
Initially training to be an apothecary like his father, Joseph Proust later deviated to pharmacy and then to chemistry. He is best remembered for developing the law of definite proportions, also known as the Proust's law, which states that pure chemical compounds always consist of constant proportions of constituent elements.
Nobel Prize-winning French chemist Jean-Pierre Sauvage is currently associated with Strasbourg University. He has gained recognition for his research on supramolecular and coordination chemistry, and for creating molecular chains, such as catenane, that mimic the mechanical functions by changing their nature in response to external cues.
Born into a family of surgeons, chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul naturally found an interest in science in his early days. His initial work involved separating colored substances from plant tissue and fats from animal tissue. His discoveries revolutionized color painting and also boosted the soap and candle industries.
Henri Moissan was a French chemist and pharmacist. He is best known for his work in isolating fluorine from its compounds, an achievement that earned him the 1906 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He was one of the original members of the International Atomic Weights Committee. He also made significant contributions to the production of artificial diamonds.
Brigitte Boisselier leads Clonaid, a company focused on human cloning research. She is also a leader of the quasi-religious Raëlism movement, which believes humans were created by aliens. Although she once announced that Clonaid had successfully cloned a human child, the legal questions surrounding it later silenced her.
At 13, Marie-Anne Paulze Lavoisier had married lawyer and chemist Antoine Lavoisier. Her mastery of English helped her assist her husband communicate with his collaborators. She also illustrated her husband’s books and eventually negotiated with Joseph Priestley, on his behalf, over the naming of oxygen, which Priestley had discovered.
Victor Grignard was a French chemist whose discovery of the Grignard Reagent earned him the prestigious Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1912. Subsequently, he was honored with a medal of the Legion of Honour, the highest French order of merit. As a chemist, he also played an important role during the First World War.
Born to a doctor in Paris, Marcellin Berthelot was an intelligent student in his younger days and excelled in history and philosophy before gaining an interest in chemistry. Best known for proposing the Thomsen–Berthelot principle of thermochemistry, he was one of the “Forty Immortals” of the French Academy.
French chemist Jean-Marie Lehn is noted for his work on synthesis of cryptands and his early innovation in supramolecular chemistry. Efforts of Lehn, Donald Cram and Charles Pedersen in discovering and determining applications of cryptands and crown ethers, which paved way for launch of the field of supramolecular chemistry, led them to receive the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1987.
French engineer and inventor Georges Claude was often referred as the Edison of France. He is most noted for inventing and commercializing neon lighting and having a near monopoly on the new technology, for conducting an experiment to generate thermal energy of the ocean and building the first Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) plant, and for the Claude cycle.
French chemist Le Chatelier is most noted for his work on Le Chatelier's principle as also on varying solubility of salts in an ideal solution. The Le Chatelier's principle, which chemists and chemical engineers use for predicting the effect a changing condition, like temperature or pressure, has on a system in chemical equilibrium was devised by him.
Jean-Baptiste Dumas was a 19th-century French chemist. He is best remembered for his works on organic analysis and synthesis. He is also credited with developing a method for the analysis of nitrogen in compounds. He was a member of the French Academy of Sciences and one of the founders of the École centrale des arts et manufactures.
Paul Sabatier was a French chemist known for his work improving the hydrogenation of organic species in the presence of metals. Along with Victor Grignard, he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1912. He is also remembered for developing what is now known as the Sabatier process and the Sabatier principle of catalysis.
Savoyard-French chemist Claude Louis Berthollet is known for reorganising chemical nomenclature with his colleagues and for introducing the use of chlorine gas as a commercial bleach. He developed a solution of sodium hypochlorite as a modern bleaching agent, first ascertained the elemental composition of ammonia gas, and introduced the reversible reaction concept leading to development of the chemical equilibrium concept.
Charles Frédéric Gerhardt was a French chemist. He developed an early interest in chemistry and studied the subject under German chemist Otto Linné Erdmann. He later went to Paris and attended Jean Baptiste Dumas’ lectures before embarking on an academic career. He is best known for his work on reforming the notation for chemical formulas.
Louis Nicolas Vauquelin was a French chemist and pharmacist. He is best known for his discoveries of chromium and beryllium. He worked as an assistant in the laboratory of chemist A. F. Fourcroy and later obtained the post of laboratory assistant at the Jardin du Roi. He eventually became a professor at the University of Paris.
Charles Friedel was a French chemist and mineralogist. He studied under famed chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur at the Sorbonne. He later obtained the post of professor of chemistry and mineralogy at the Sorbonne. He collaborated with James Crafts to develop the Friedel-Crafts alkylation and acylation reactions. His son Georges also became a renowned mineralogist.
Bernard Courtois was a French chemist. He is credited with isolating iodine and morphine. Interested in chemistry from a young age, he learned how to make potassium nitrate for gunpowder for the French Revolution. He later found work at the École Polytechnique in Paris. Later in life, he went into manufacturing high-quality iodine and its salts.
Noted French chemist and physicist Henri-Victor Regnault initially taught chemistry and then gained fame for his research on the thermal properties of gases. He lost both his laboratory and his son during the Franco-German War. His is one of the 72 names that adorn the Eiffel Tower.
Alexandre-Théophile Vandermonde initially made a name for himself as a violinist. He drifted to mathematics much later, at age 35, and became famous for his determinant theory in mathematics and for solving a complex math problem called The Knight's Tour. His memoirs are invaluable to understanding math.
French chemist Anselme Payen is known for co-discovering the first enzyme diastase, and for discovering the carbohydrate cellulose. He broke the Dutch monopoly for borax by developing a method to synthesize borax from soda and boric acid; developed a method to determine nitrogen and methods for refining sugar; and invented a decolorimeter.
Known as the inventor of the now-obsolete Leblanc process, Nicolas Leblanc was employed as a physician when the French Academy of Sciences offered a prize for developing a process, which would turn common salt into soda ash. Using sea salt and sulfuric acid as the raw materials, Nicolas Leblanc soon developed a technique that was widely followed during the 19th century.
French chemist Louis-Jacques Thenard was born to a farm worker and was educated on scholarships. He grew up to teach chemistry and also joined the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences as a foreign member. He is remembered for his discovery of hydrogen peroxide and Thenard’s blue, used in coloring porcelain.
Best remembered for his law on solutions, also known as the Raoult’s law, François-Marie Raoult taught at the University of Grenoble till his final days. His contributions to chemistry earned him recognitions such as the Commandeur de la Légion d'Honneur and the Davy Medal.
French nobleman and scientist Jean-Louis-Paul-François de Noailles, 5th Duke of Noailles, a member of Académie des sciences, was a Knight of Golden Fleece. He became Duc d'Ayen following his grandfather's death, and Duc de Noailles following his father's death. He went into self-imposed exile in Switzerland until the Bourbon Restoration and then took the prestigious position of Peer of France.
Born into a noble French family of Cognac, Paul-Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran was initially focused on running his family’s wine business. He later deviated to chemistry and became a significant figure of spectroscopy. His research led to the discoveries of the new elements gallium, samarium and dysprosium.
French physicist and chemist Pierre Louis Dulong FRS FRSE is best-remembered for proposing the thermodynamic law called the Dulong–Petit law with fellow scientist Alexis Petit. Subjects of his scientific studies included the elasticity of steam, specific heats of gases and conduction of heat. He discovered nitrogen trichloride, worked on specific heat capacity, and expansion and refractive indices of gases.
38 Paul Heroult
Best known for inventing the electric-arc furnace, Paul Heroult had also devised the electrolytic process for developing low-cost aluminium. Because of a similar work by Charles Martin Hall, the process came to be known as the Hall–Heroult process. He had also been a technical advisor to many companies.
Born to a pastor, Charles-Adolphe Wurtz surprisingly studied medicine instead of theology. He later taught chemistry and became the first to chair the organic chemistry department at the Sorbonne. He is best remembered for his pathbreaking research on glycols and the synthesis of many significant compounds.
Best known for exploring the geology of the Tertiary Period, Alexandre Brongniart initially taught natural history and then became a professor of mineralogy. He also worked for the development of porcelain enameling in France. His other works include a classification of reptiles and the introduction of geologic dating.
Credited with establishing the first agricultural research station, French agricultural scientist and chemist Jean-Baptiste Boussingault made significant discoveries in agricultural science. Establishing the importance of nitrogen in plant growth, busting the myth that plants absorb the element from the atmosphere and proving that nitrogen content in soil increases after the cultivation of legumes are some of his contributions in this field.
Known as the founder of the chemistry of alkaloids, Pierre-Joseph Pelletier studied and taught at Ecole de Pharmacie. Working with Joseph Bienaimé Caventou, he first isolated chlorophyll. Working further they established that alkaloids contain oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen and isolated brucine, cinchonine, colchicine, quinine, strychnine, and veratrine. Their discoveries were later used by chemists to develop many useful medicines.
While studying the salt waters of the Mediterranean, Antoine Jérôme Balard made a chance discovery of bromine, though Carl Jacob Löwig had discovered the element independently a year earlier. The French chemist also taught chemistry at the Sorbonne. Renowned chemist Louis Pasteur was one of his students.
Louis-Bernard Guyton de Morveau initially followed in his father’s footsteps to become a lawyer. He later deviated to chemistry and set up a laboratory at home. He propagated the phlogiston theory and later laid down the first systematic method of naming chemical substances. He also earned the Legion of Honour.
Born in Poland, science philosopher Émile Meyerson studied at the University of Heidelberg and later settled in Paris. Initially a news editor, he later penned various significant scientific articles, such as On Explanation in the Sciences. He also wrote extensively on quantum theory and relativity theory.
Born to a French diplomat, Henri Étienne Sainte-Claire Deville initially studied medicine but later deviated to chemistry. He taught chemistry at the Sorbonne and also found a way to produce large-scale metallic aluminium economically through what was known as the Deville process. He also worked extensively on platinum.
After gaining his engineering degree, Auguste Laurent worked briefly as a laboratory assistant for Jean-Baptiste Dumas and then taught chemistry at the University of Bordeaux. Apart from laying down a system of naming organic chemical substances, he also discovered phthalic acid, anthracene, and carbolic acid.
French chemist Joseph Achille Le Bel is best remembered for his research on stereochemistry. His studies on optical isomerism and optical activity were pathbreaking. Though similar research was conducted by Jacobus van’t Hoff, Le Bel’s research was independent, and their hypothesis is now known as the Le Bel-van't Hoff rule.
French chemist Paul Marie Eugène Vieille is best remembered for creating the smokeless gunpowder known as Poudre B, which left no residue. His invention fetched him the Leconte Prize. He also collaborated with Marcellin Berthelot and worked extensively on various aspects of the physics of shock waves.
50 Edmond Frémy
Edmond Frémy is best known for his discovery of the oxidizing agent Frémy's salt. Apart from serving as the director of the Museum of Natural History, Paris, he had also worked extensively on osmic acid and ozone. He also discovered hydrogen fluoride, created aluminium oxide crystals, and made artificial rubies.