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Robert Wilhelm Bunsen

Updated on December 1, 2016

Robert Wilhelm Bunsen (1811-99), German chemist and physicist, born at Gottingen, where he pursued his early studies, afterwards completing them at Paris, Berlin, and Vienna. In 1836 he became professor of chemistry at the Polytechnic Institute of Kassel, and three years later he went to Marburg. In 1852 he was made professor at Heidelberg University, and here he spent the rest of his life. He was one of the greatest teachers of chemistry, but rigidly abstained from theoretical discussion. Hence no school rose under his name, in spite of the great number of his pupils who made their names as chemists. The burner which bears his name is still widely used. His researches on cacodyl, begun in 1837, cost him the use of one eye, and almost proved fatal. Even before this he had discovered the use of hydrated ferric oxide as an antidote to arsenic. He was also the first to obtain magnesium in a metallic state. But the greatest of his achievements was the discovery, in company with his friend Kirchhoff, of spectrum analysis, a discovery which led to the discovery of a number of elements, and has proved of inestimable value to both chemists and astronomers. He published Gasometrische Methoden, 1857.

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