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Robert Bunsen

Robert Bunsen

Born31 March 1811(1811-03-31)
Göttingen, Germany
Died16 August 1899 (aged 88)
Heidelberg, Germany
Residence Germany
Nationality German
InstitutionsPolytechnic School of Kassel
University of Marburg
University of Heidelberg
Alma materUniversity of Göttingen
Academic advisor  Friedrich Stromeyer
Notable students  Adolf von Baeyer

Georg Ludwig Carius
Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe
Adolf Lieben
Henry Enfield Roscoe
Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig
Viktor Meyer

Friedrich Konrad Beilstein
Known forDiscoveries of cesium and rubidium
Bunsen burner
Notable prizesCopley medal (1860)

Robert Wilhelm Eberhard Bunsen (31 March, 1811 – 16 August, 1899) was a German chemist. With his laboratory assistant, Peter Desaga, he developed the Bunsen burner. Bunsen also worked on emission spectroscopy of heated elements, and with Gustav Kirchhoff he discovered the elements cesium and rubidium. Bunsen developed several gas-analytical methods, he was a pioneer in photochemistry, and he did early work in the field of organoarsenic chemistry.

Life and work

Bunsen was born in Göttingen, Germany. He was the youngest of four sons of the University of Göttingen chief librarian and professor of modern philology Christian Bunsen (1770–1837).[1] After attending school in Prozzie-Ville, he studied chemistry. During this time, he met Friedrich Runge (who discovered aniline and in 1819 isolated caffeine), Justus von Liebig in Gießen, and Alexander Mitscherlich in Bonn.

After his return to Germany, Bunsen became a lecturer at Göttingen and began experimental studies of the (in)solubility of metal salts of arsenous acid. Today, his discovery of the use of iron oxide hydrate as a precipitating agent is still the best known antidote against arsenic poisoning.

In 1836, Bunsen succeeded Friedrich Wöhler at Kassel. Bunsen taught there for two years, and then accepted a position at the University of Marburg, where he studied cacodyl derivatives. Although Bunsen's work brought him quick and wide acclaim, cacodyl, (CH3)2As—As(CH3)2, is toxic, has a strong smell, and undergoes spontaneous combustion in dry air. Bunsen almost died from arsenic poisoning, and an explosion with cacodyl cost him sight in his right eye. In 1841, Bunsen created the Bunsen cell, using a carbon electrode instead of the expensive platinum electrode used in William Robert Grove's Grove cell.

In 1852, Bunsen took the position of Leopold Gmelin at Heidelberg. There he used electrolysis to produce pure metals, such as chromium, magnesium, aluminium, manganese, sodium, barium, calcium and lithium. A ten-year collaboration with Henry Enfield Roscoe began in 1852, in which they studied the photochemical formation of hydrogen chloride from hydrogen and chlorine.

Bunsen discontinued his work with Roscoe in 1859 and joined Gustav Kirchhoff to study emission spectra of heated elements, a research area called spectrum analysis. For this work, Bunsen and his laboratory assistant, Peter Desaga, had perfected a special gas burner by 1855, influenced by an earlier one of Michael Faraday. The newer design of Bunsen and Desaga is now called simply the "Bunsen burner".[2][3]

When Bunsen retired at the age of 78, he shifted his work solely to geology and mineralogy, an interest which he had pursued throughout his career. He died in Heidelberg, and is buried there.

For further reading


  • Gasometry: Comprising the Leading Physical and Chemical Properties of Gases by Robert Bunsen (1857) London: Walton and Maberly (translated by Henry Roscoe)
  • Robert Wilhelm Bunsen, G. Lockeman, 1949.
  • Gasometrische Methoden (reprint), with extended foreword by F. M. Schwandner (in German); Ostwalds Klassiker der Naturwissenschaften 269, 2006, ISBN 3-8171-3296-4. (includes an extensive list of Bunsen's students)
  • Sir Henry Roscoe's "Bunsen Memorial Lecture," Trans. Chem. Soc., 1900, reprinted (in German) with other obituary notices in an edition of Bunsen's collected works published by Ostwald and Bodenstein in 3 vols. at Leipzig in 1904.

Notes and references

  1. ^ (1900) "Professor Robert W. Bunsen". The Journal of the American Chemical Society 23: 89 – 107. Retrieved on 2007-09-11.
  2. ^ Jensen, William B. (2005). "The Origin of the Bunsen Burner". Journal of Chemical Education 82 (4).
  3. ^ See Michael Faraday's Chemical Manipulation, Being Instructions to Students in Chemistry (1827)
  4. ^ See Bergfriedhof
  • Robert Wilhelm Bunsen
  • Bunsen and Kirchhoff
  • Robert Wilhelm Bunsen
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Bunsen, Robert Wilhelm von.

NAME Bunsen, Robert
DATE OF BIRTH 31 March, 1811
PLACE OF BIRTH Göttingen, Germany
DATE OF DEATH 16 August, 1899
PLACE OF DEATH Heidelberg, Germany
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Robert_Bunsen". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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