Pelletier, Behnard

, a chemist of considerable eminence, was born at Bayonne in 1761. He acquired the rudiments of pharmacy in his father’s house, and afterwards studied the subject at Paris with such constant application, that at a very early age he was familiarly acquainted with chemical processes, and even with the exact state of the science. At the age of twenty-one he published a set of experiments on the arsenic acid, in which he explained the properties of Macquer’s neutral arsenical salt, and demonstrated the real nature of Macquer’s process. In these observations he had been anticipated by Scheele, by Bergman, by the Dijon academicians, and by Berthollet; but it was no inconsiderable merit in so young a man to have advanced as far in the subject as these masters of the science. | Soon after, he published several observations on the crystallization of sulphur and cinnabar, on the distillation of phosphorus from bones, on deliquescent salts, on oxymuriatic acid, on the formation of ethers, and particularly on muriatic and acetic ethers. His success in these encouraged him to attempt the analysis of the zeolite, at that time a much more difficult task than at present, when the mode of analyzing minerals has been reduced to a regular system. In 1785 he undertook the analysis of plumbago, a labour in which he had been anticipated by Scheele, and which was completed the year following, in the course of the celebrated experiments made upon iron and its combinations, by Berthollet, Monge, and Vandertnonde. His next object was the combination of phosphorus with the metals; the existence of which had been merely pointed out by Margraff. To Pelletier we owe almost all the knowledge concerning the metallic phosphurets which we at present possess. The next object of his researches was aurum Musivum, a brownish yellow scaly powder sometimes used in painting. He demonstrated it to be a compound of sulphur and the oxide of tin, and pointed out several improvements in the method of preparing it.

In 1790, when the churches of France were stript of their bells, and it was proposed to extract the copper from them, Mr. Pelletier pointed out a method of scorifying the tin, which constitutes the other ingredient, by means of the black oxide of manganese. His first essays were made in Paris, but he demonstrated in the foundery of Romilly that his process succeeded also in the large way. Soon after he analyzed the blue pigment manufactured in England, and known in France by the name of cendres bleues d‘Angleterre, and gave a process for preparing it. Nothing more was necessary than to precipitate copper from nitrous acid by means of a sufficient quantity of lime. His next set of experiments consisted in an examination of strontian, and in a comparison of it with barytes. They confirmed the previous experiments of Dr. Hope and’ Mr. Klaproth. He had formerly examined a small specimen of. carbonat of strontian without finding in it any thing peculiar.

In 1791, on the death of Tillet, he was admitted a member of the academy of sciences, and on the abolition of the academy, he was chosen one of the original members of the national institute which was substituted in its place. | In 1792 he went to La Fere to assist at the trials of a new kind of gunpowder. Being obliged to spend the greatest part of the day in the open air, in a cold raw day, his health, naturally delicate, was considerably impaired. But he had gradually recovered almost completely, when he fell a sacrifice to the science to which he had devoted the whole of his attention. He breathed at different times, and during long periods, oxyiruriatic acid gas. The consequence was a consumption, which wasted him rapidly, and at last carried him off on the 21st July 17.V7, in the thirty-sixth year of his age.

Short as the period of his life was, the services which he rendered to chemistry were by no means inconsiderable. His analyses are always precise, and his dissertations written with that perspicuity which marks the clear thinker, and the master of his subject. His fondness for the science was extreme; he continued his labours to the very last, and even on his death-bed spoke of them with satisfaction. His constitution was always weak, and his character marked with timidity; but his mind was remarkably active, and his conduct irreproachable. 1


Mem. de I’Inst. Nation, in Baldwin’s Lit. Journal.