Childhood & Early Life
He was born on May 6, 1871, in Cherbourg, France in the family of a marine carpenter, Théophile Henri Grignard.
From 1883 to 1887 he studied in local schools.
After earning a scholarship, he joined the ‘École Normale Spécial’ school in Cluny in 1889. The objective of the school was to prepare modern secondary school teachers. However, after a couple of years the school was closed following conflict between proponents of classic and modern methods of secondary education. The students were transferred to other schools to complete their scholarship education. This is how Grignard joined the ‘University of Lyons’ in its ‘Faculté des Sciences’ department.
He could not succeed in the licentiate examination in mathematics. Then from 1892 till the end of 1893 he went to fulfil his military service and thereafter came back to Lyons.
In 1894 he earned his ‘Licencié ès Sciences Mathématiques’ degree.
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He joined the ‘Faculté des Sciences’ at the ‘University of Lyon’, in a junior position in December 1894, where he worked with French scientist Louis Bouveault, who convinced him to take up chemistry.
After some time he was promoted to préparateur, and from that time he became associated with French organic chemist Philippe Barbier, who is considered as father of organometallic chemistry.
He became ‘chef des travaux pratiques’ in 1898 and the same year penned down his first paper along with Philippe Barbier.
His first research works were related to examination of branched unsaturated hydrocarbons and also on ethyl -isopropylacetobutyrate and the stereoisomeric diisopropylbutenedicarboxylic acids.
Upon advice of Philippe Barbier, he researched on organomagnesium compounds, while his invention of the composition of magnesium alkyl halides was conveyed first to the Académie des Sciences on May 11, 1900, by French chemist Henri Moissan.
Soon he developed the use of such reagents, which later played significant role in organic synthesis. There were at least six thousand papers that were published in 1935, at the time of his death, which convey applications of the ‘Grignard reaction’.
He applied the agents to develop and examine the exotic alcohols, keto-esters, nitriles, ketones and terpene compounds and came out with a procedure for the synthesis of fulvenes.
His other research works include the catalytic hydrogenation and dehydrogenation procedures, breaking up of hydrocarbons in presence of aluminium chloride and composition of unsaturated compounds with the aid of quantitative ozonization.
In 1901, he earned his PhD in Chemistry from the ‘University of Lyon’ after submitting his remarkable thesis ‘Sur les Combinaisons organomagnésiennes mixtes’ on organic magnesium compounds.
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In 1905 he was inducted as Maître de Conférences at the ‘University of Besançon’.
The following year he joined ‘University of Lyon’ and held similar position until 1908 when he became a Professor of Chemistry in the university.
In 1909 he left ‘University of Lyon’ to join ‘University of Nancy’ as a Professor of organic chemistry.
At the outset of the ‘World War I’, Grignard was delegated to examine the cracking of Benzols at Nancy. He also worked on issues relating to chemical warfare in Paris.
In 1912 two volumes of his book, ‘Le Catalyse en Chimie Organique’ (Catalysis in Organic Chemistry) was published.
Around 1917 to 1918, he went to the United States and participated as chemical representative on the ‘Tardieu Committee’. He visited the ‘Mellon Institute’ where he delivered a lecture as well.
Post ‘World War I’, he returned to Nancy and thereafter joined the ‘University of Lyon’ in 1919 succeeding Philippe Barbier as Professor of General Chemistry. He served the post till 1935.
After the war, he began compiling his ‘Traité de Chimie Organique’ (Treatise on organic chemistry), two volumes of which were published in 1935, while the multi-volume treatise was completed by his collaborators after his death.
He remained Director of ‘École de Chimie Industrielle de Lyons’ from 1921 to 1935.
He was inducted as Dean of the Faculty of Sciences at the ‘University of Lyon’ in 1929.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1910, he married Augustine Marie Boulant and the couple together had a son and a daughter.
His son, Roger Grignard, born in 1911, was also a chemist.
On December 13, 1935, he died in Lyon, France.