In the 1800’s Jöns Jacob Berzelius was one of the founders of modern chemistry. With his passion for scientific experimentation, Berzelius developed specialist chemistry lab equipment. He invented improved methods of chemical analysis which enabled him to demonstrate the differences between compounds.
In the history of chemistry, Berzelius is famous for his system of chemical notation to identify chemical compounds easily. His work with chemical elements discovered cerium and selenium. In further laboratory experiments, he was able to isolate silicon and thorium. As he established a successful chemistry lab, a team of students worked with him, and they are credited for discovering lithium, lanthanum and vanadium.
Discovering Glass Blowing
Berzelius was raised in a well-educated Swedish family but had a tough start in life with both his parents dying by the time he was 10. He enjoyed learning about the natural world and was a keen insect collector. His curious personality led him to study medicine at the University of Uppsala. With access to a large chemistry department, Berzelius thrived with a subject he was fascinated in and started doing experiments in his room.
In 1802 he graduated as a physician, but he still wanted to continue to study and experiment with chemistry. Berzelius learned the skills of glassblowing so he could make new equipment to develop experiments. Working with batteries, he split salts dissolved in water into more elementary components. This led him to discover new elements, and in 1807 he secured a job as Professor of Chemistry at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
Establishing Chemistry Lab Equipment
As a professor of chemistry, Berzelius was able to build a well-equipped laboratory. With specially developed equipment, he created a vast body of work with measurements and chemical analysis to discover the weights of atoms.
He created chemistry textbooks for his medical students which explained his experiments and lab equipment. These textbooks were widely translated, and in 1822 he started to write annual reports on the work of chemistry in Europe.
Scientific Historical Legacy
Using specially developed chemistry lab equipment Berzelius was the first scientists to measure accurate atomic weights for the elements. This work helped to confirm Daltons Atomic Theory and was the founding research for Mendeleev’s periodic table. So, the work of Berzelius contributed to the modern periodic table that scientists use today.
In reporting his experimental results and research Berzelius created new chemical terms that we still use. Terms like ‘catalysis’ and ‘polymer’ are credited to him. In Berzelius’s work, he was the first person to demonstrate a distinction between organic and inorganic compounds. This led him to create the term ‘protein’ which we now know as important to all living organisms.
What can we learn from the founder of Chemistry Lab Equipment?
Berzelius is an excellent example of a collaborative scientist who was well known for successfully working with others. His inquisitive nature led him to build equipment to learn how chemical discoveries could be made. He was inspired by the work of other scientists and challenged himself to discover more.
In creating his own equipment with bespoke laboratory glassware he could test and explore chemical reactions never witnessed before. We can learn from him the joy of experimentation either to demonstrate the work of others or to try something different. From a difficult early life, Berzelius was dedicated and driven, something we can all learn from.