Henri Moissan Biography, Life, Interesting Facts
Henri Moissan was a French scientist who is best known for his work in the field of chemistry and isolating fluorine.
Childhood And Early Life
Henri Moissan was born on 28 September 1852 in Paris, France. His family was Sephardic Jews, and he was the son of Francis Moissan and Joséphine née Mitel. Moissan’s father worked for the Eastern Railway Company, and his mother worked as a seamstress. Moissan gained his love of chemistry at the College de Meux. Moissan spent so much time on chemistry that he devoted almost no time to his other subjects and ultimately failed to gain admission to a university. After leaving the school, he gained work in a pharmacy and after saving an individual from arsenic poisoning decided to pursue his love of chemistry.
Henri Moissan then began working in a laboratory with Pierre Paul Dehérain. Dehérain convinced him to take a university entrance exam and gain academic qualifications. Moissan also began to publish papers on his work, the first of which dealt with plant metabolism of the gasses oxygen and carbon dioxide. His published works gained him employment at the School of Pharmacy in Paris. He switched his studies to inorganic chemistry and studied pyrophoric iron and chromic acid.
In 1880, Henri Moissan received his Ph.D. and worked at the Agronomic Institute. He was now able to lecture in chemistry which gave him a steady income. He began to focus on the study of fluorine in 1884. He began studying fluorine in its various states and worked with electrolyzing it. He discovered that electrolyzation was only possible at sub-zero temperatures and it was at minus fifty degrees Celsius that he managed to electrolyze fluorine and thus isolate it. However, at first, he was unable to reproduce these results due to contaminations of test equipment. It was not until late in 1886 that the French Academy of sciences observed his success. For his discovery, Moissan received the sum of ten thousand francs.
Henri Moissan continued to focus on the study of fluorine and discovered multiple compounds of the substance. He also worked on the development of boron and artificial diamonds. Moissan’s method for isolating fluorine is still the method used for finding the element today. His discoveries led to him being made a professor of toxicology and being elected to the chair of inorganic chemistry. In 1893, Moissan discovered silicon carbide while studying rock fragments from a meteor crater in Arizona. He also worked to synthesize the newly discovered material.
Henri Moissan married Marie Léonie Lugan in 1882. Lugan was the daughter of the pharmacist who first employed Moissan. Together they had a son. Moissan died on 20 February 1907 in Paris of acute appendicitis.
Awards And Achievements
Henri Moissan was awarded the 1906 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his isolation of fluorine. He was made a commander of the French Legion of Honour by the French government. The silicon carbide he discovered in the meteor fragments was named moissanite in his honor.