Paul Sabatier Biography


Birthday: November 5, 1854 (Scorpio)

Born In: Carcassonne, France

Paul Sabatier was a French organic chemist known for his research works in catalytic organic synthesis, especially for inventing the role of nickel and other metals as a catalyst in hydrogenation. His research work earned him the ‘Nobel Prize in Chemistry’ in 1912 along with another French chemist Victor Grignard. He played an instrumental role in enabling the use of hydrogenation in the industrial sector. He is also known for the Sabatier principle and for his book ‘La Catalyse en Chimie Organique’. He remained the Professor of Chemistry at the ‘University of Toulose’ for over four decades and later became the ‘Dean of the Faculty of Science’. He was an honorary member of the ‘American Chemical Society’, the ‘Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences’, the ‘Royal Society of London’, and the ‘Academy of Madrid’ among several other foreign institutes. Sabatier was honoured as ‘Commander of the Légion d'Honneur’ and inducted as a member of the ‘French Academy of Sciences’. He received the ‘Prix Lacate’ award in 1897 and the ‘Prix Jecker’ award in 1905. The ‘Royal Society of London’ awarded him the ‘Davy Medal’ in 1915 and the ‘Royal Medal in 1918.
Quick Facts

French Celebrities Born In November

Died At Age: 86

Chemists Organic Chemists

Died on: August 14, 1941

place of death: Toulouse, France

More Facts

education: École Normale Supérieure

awards: Nobel Prize for Chemistry (1912)
Davy Medal (1915)
Albert Medal (1926)
Franklin Medal (1933)

Childhood & Early Life
He was born on November 5, 1854, in Carcassonne in Southern France.
After attending the local Lycée, he sat for the entrance exams of ‘École Normale Supérieure’ and ‘École Polytechnique’ and after being selected by both the institutes he opted to join the former.
He began attending the ‘École Normale Supérieure’ from 1874 and graduated after three years as the topper in his class.
After completing graduation, he worked for a year as a teacher of physics in a local school in Nîmes.
In 1878 he joined ‘Collège de France’ as a laboratory assistant of Marcellin Berthelot, under whom he completed his ‘Doctor of Science’ in 1880. His thesis was based on the thermochemistry of sulfur and metallic sulfides.
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After his doctorate, he served as maître de conference in physics in the faculty of sciences at the ‘University of Bordeaux’ for a year.
In January 1882, he joined the ‘University of Toulouse’ and taught physics. In 1884 Sabatier became a professor of chemistry at the university, a position he held for decades till his retirement in 1930.
In 1887 he founded a multidisciplinary journal, ‘Annales de la Faculté des Sciences de Toulouse’ along with Thomas Joannes Stieltjes, , E. Cosserat, Benjamin Baillaud, C. Fabre, T. Chauvin, Marie Henri Andoyer, G. Berson, A. Destrem and A. Legoux.
In 1905, the ‘University of Toulouse’ appointed him the Dean of its Faculty of Science.
His early research work included chemical and physical analysis of chlorides, sulphides, chromates and copper compounds.
Sabatier investigated the nitrosodisulfonic acid and its salts and examined the oxides of nitrogen. He made intrinsic analysis of absorption spectra and partition coefficients.
During his initial analysis of the phenomenon of catalysis, he figured out the inconsistencies in the physical theory of English scientist Michael Faraday. Sabatier developed his own chemical theory that postulated the creation of unstable mediums.
Almost the entire area of catalytic syntheses in organic chemistry was analysed by him, he examined hundreds of hydrogenation and dehydrogenation reactions.
He found that nickel when used in small quantity as a catalyst aided in hydrogenation of most compounds of carbon. He also pointed out that apart from nickel there are many other metals like cobalt, platinum, copper, palladium and iron that possess catalytic activity, albeit in lower intensity.
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He went into investigating catalytic hydration and dehydration and analysed the usual activity of several catalysts in various reactions, thereby studying the feasibleness of each.
In 1913 he published his most notable book, ‘La Catalyse en Chimie Orgarnique’ (Catalysis in organic chemistry), the second edition of which was issued in 1920. The book was translated in English by E. E. Reid, which was published in 1923.
Major Works
His most remarkable discovery, known as the ‘Sabatier reaction’ and also as the ‘Sabatier process’ that he brought out in the 1910s remains his primary invention. The process takes into account reaction of hydrogen with carbon dioxide at a high level of temperature and pressure with nickel as a catalyst to form water and methane.
Many of his inventions related to the application of metal hydrogenation catalysts, aided in forming the foundations of various industries such as that of oil hydrogenation, margarine oil and synthetic menthol.
Awards & Achievements
In 1912, he received the ‘Nobel Prize in Chemistry’ along with French chemist Victor Grignard.
Personal Life & Legacy
He was married to Mademoiselle Herail and the couple was blessed with four daughters. One of his daughters was married to renowned Italian chemist, Emilio Pomilio.
Sabatier was a reserved person and was quite fond of gardening and art.
Sabatier passed away on August 14, 1941.
The ‘Paul Sabatier University’ in Toulouse was named in his honour.

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