Scheele, Charles William

, a very learned chemist, was born in 1742, at Stralsund in the capital of Swedish | Pomerania, where his father was a tradesman. Having shown an inclination to learn pharmacy, he was bound apprentice to an apothecary at Gottenburg, with whom he lived eight years, and at his leisure hours contrived to make himself master of the science of chemistry, reading the best authors, and making such experiments as his confined means would permit. From Gottenburg, he went to Malmo, and two years after to Stockholm. In 1773 he went to Upsal, and resided for some time in the house of Mr. Loock. Here Bergman first found him, saw his merit and encouraged it, adopted his opinions, defended him with zeal, and took upon him the charge of publishing his treatises. Under this liberal patronage (for Bergman procured him also a salary from the Swedish academy), Scheele produced a series of discoveries which at once astonished and delighted the world. He ascertained the nature of manganese discovered the existence and singular properties of oxymuriatic acid and gave a theory of the composition of muriatic acid, which promises fair to be the true one. He discovered a new earth which was afterwards called barytes; and he determined the constituents of the volatile alkali. All these discoveries are related in one paper published about 1772. He discovered and ascertained the properties of many acids, the nature of plumbago and molybdena; analyzed fluor spar, which had eluded the searches of all preceding chemists; and determined the constituents of tungstate of lime. His two essays on the prussic acid are particularly interesting, and display the resources of his mind, and his patient industry, in a very remarkable point of view. His different papers on animal substances are particularly interesting, and replete with valuable and accurate information. On one occasion, in his treatise on fire, Scheele attempted the very difficult and general subject of combustion; but his attempt was not crowned with success. The acuteness, however, with which he treated it deserves our admiration; and the vast number of new and important facts, which he brought forward in support of his hypothesis, is truly astonishing, and perhaps could not have been brought together by any other man than Scheele. He discovered oxygen gas, and ascertained the composition of the atmosphere, without any knowledge of what had been previously done by Dr. Priestley. His views respecting the nature of atmospheric air were much more correct than those of | Priestley; and his experiments on vegetation and respiration, founded on those views, were possessed of considerable value. These and other discoveries which stamp the character of Scheele as a philosopher, are to be found generally in the transactions of the Royal Society of Stockholm. Dr. Beddoes published an English translation of mo t of his dissertations, with useful and ingenious notes. There is also an English translation of his dissertation on air and fire, with notes by Richard Kirwan, esq.

In 1777 he was appointed by the medical college to be apothecary at Koping; and in this situation he remained until his death, although it was often wished that he had obtained a more conspicuous situation. He is said to have been offered an annuity of 300l. if he would settle in England, and that his death only prevented his accepting it. On May 19, 1786, he was confined to his bed; on the 21st he bequeathed his whole* property to the widow of his predecessor at Koping, whom, when his end was approaching, he married out of a principle of gratitude, and on the same day he died, aged only forty-four.

According to the report of his friends, the moral character of this ingenious man was irreproachable, and though his manners were reserved, and he mixed little in company, he was of a very friendly and communicative disposition. He attained high fame under very disadvantageous circumstances. He understood none of the modern languages, except the German and Swedish, so that he had not the benefit of the discoveries made by foreigners, unless by the slow and uncertain medium of translations. The important services, however, which he rendered to natural philosophy, entitled him to universal reputation, and he obtained it. 1


Crell’s Chemical Journal in —Gent, Mag, vol, LIX, Thomson’s Hist, of the Royal Society.