Lemery, Nicolas

, a celebrated chemist, was born Nov. 17, 1645, at Rouen in Normandy, of which parliament his father was a proctor, and of the reformed religion. Having received a suitable education at the place of his birth, he was put apprentice to an apothecary, who was a relation; but, finding in a short lime that his master knew little of chemistry, he left him in 1666, and went to improve himself in that art at Paris, where he applied to Mr. Glazer, then demonstrator of chemistry in the royal gardens; but as Mr. Glazer was one of those professors who are full of obscure ideas, and was also far from being communicative, Lemery stayed with him only two months, and then proceeded to travel through France in quest of some better masters. In this resolution he went to Montpelier, where he continued three years with Mr. Vernant, an apothecary, who gave him an opportunity of performing several chemical operations, and of reading lectures also to some of his scholars. By these means he made such advances in | chemistry, that in a little time he drew all the professors of physic, as well as other curious persons at Montpelier, to hear him; having always some new discoveries, which raised his reputation so high, that he practised physic in. that university without a doctor’s degree.

In 1672, having made the tour of France, he returned to Paris, where he commenced an acquaintance with Mr. Marty n, apothecary to monsieur the prince; and making use of the laboratory which this apothecary had in the hotel de Conde, he performed several courses of chemistry, which brought him into the knowledge and esteem of the prince. At length he provided himself with a laboratory of his own, and might have been made a doctor of physic, but his attachment to chemistry induced him to remain an apothecary, and his lectures were frequented by so great a number of scholars, that he had scarce room to perform his operations. Chemistry was then coming into great vogue in that metropolis; and Lemery contributed greatly to its advancement, by treating it in a simple and perspicuous manner, divesting it of the jargon of mysticism in which it had been hitherto obscured, and, by the dexterity of his experiments, exhibiting the facts which it discloses to the comprehension of every understanding. By these means he established such a character for superior chemical skill, as enabled him to make a fortune by the sale of his preparations, which were in great request both in Paris and the provinces. One article in particular was the source of great profit, namely, the oxyd, or, as it was then called, the magistery of bismuth, and known as a cosmetic by the name of Spanish white, which no other person in Paris knew how to prepare. In 1675 he published his “Coura de Chymie,” which was received with general approbation and applause, and passed through numerous editions: indeed seldom has a work on a subject of science been so popular. It sold, says Fontenelle, like a novel or a satire; netf editions followed year after year; and it was translated into Latin, and into various modern languages. Its chief value consisted in the clearness and accuracy with which the processes and operations were detailed: the science was not yet sufficiently advanced for a rational theory of them. Indeed he seems to have worked rather with the view of directing apothecaries how to multiply their preparations, than as a philosophical chemist; and his materials are not arranged in the most favourable manner for the instruction | of beginners "in the science. Nor did he divulge the whole of his pharmaceutical knowledge in this treatise; he kept the preparation of several of his chemical remedies secret, in order to obtain the greater profit by their sale.

In 1681 his tranquillity began to be disturbed on account of his religion; and he received orders to quit his employ. At this time the elector of Brandenburgh, by Mr. Spanheini, his envoy in France, made him a proposal to go to Berlin, with a promise of founding a professorship in chemistry for him there; but the trouble of transporting hu family to such a distance, added to the hopes of some exception that would be obtained in his favour, hindered him from accepting that offer, and he was indulged to read some courses after the time limited by the order was expired; but at length, this not being suffered, he came to England in 1G83, where Charles II. gave him great encouragement. Yet, as the face of the public affairs here appeared not more promising of quiet than in France, he resolved to return thither, though without being able to determine what course he should then take.

In this dilemma, imagining that the title of doctor of physic might procure him some tranquillity, he took that degree at Caen about the end o/ the year; and, repairing to Paris, had a great deal of business for a while, but the edict of Nantz being revoked in 1685, he was forbid to practise his profession, as well as other protestants. He read, however, two courses of chemistry afterwards, under some powerful protections; and having no longer courage to support his religious principles, entered into the Romish church, in the beginning of 1686. This change procured him a full right to practise physic, and having obtained the king’s letters for holding his course of chemistry, and for the sale of his medicines, although not now an apothecary, what uith his pupils, his patients, and the sale of his chemical secrets, he made considerable gains.

Upon the revival of the royal academy of sciences, in 1699, he was made associate chemist, and at the end of the year became a pensionary. In 1707 he began to feel the infirmities of age, and had a slight attack of apoplexy, which not being so severe as to hinder him from going abroad, he attended the academy for a considerable time, but at length being confined to his house, he resigned his pensionary’s place. Another stroke of apoplexy in 1715, after seven days, put a period to his life June 19, at 4ie | age of seventy. His principal works are, 1. The “Cours cle Chymie” before mentioned. 2. “An universal Pharmacopeia.” 3. “Diet. Universel des Drogues simples,” a very useful work. 4. “A Treatise of Antimony; containing the chemical analysis of that mineral,” which involved him in a controversy with an anonymous critic, irv which he was not very successful. 1