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Robert Kane (chemist)


Sir Robert John Kane (1809–1890) was an Irish chemist.

His father, John Kean, was involved in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and fled for a time to France where he studied chemistry. Back in Dublin Kean (now Kane) founded the Kane Company and manufactured sulphuric acid.

The young Kane studied chemistry at his father's factory and published his first paper, "Observations on the existence of chlorine in the native peroxide of manganese", in 1828. He studied medicine at Trinity College, Dublin and pharmacy in Paris.

On the strength of his book Elements of Practical Pharmacy he was elected to the Royal Irish Academy in 1832. He studied acids, showed that hydrogen was electropositive, and proposed the existence of the ethyl radical. In 1836 he travelled to Gießen in Germany to study organic chemistry with Justus von Liebig.

He published a three-volume Elements of Chemistry in 1841–1844, and a detailed report on the Industrial Resources of Ireland. Sir Robert Peel appointed him director of the Museum of Irish Industry in Dublin in 1845 and President of Queen's College, Cork. He was knighted in 1846.

He became a political adviser on scientific and industrial matters, and served on several commissions related to the Irish Potato Famine (1845-1849), all more or less ineffective. His political and administrative work meant that his contribution to chemistry ceased after about 1844.


  • Kane, R.J. (1831) Elements of Practical Pharmacy, Dublin : Hodges & Smith
  • Kane, R.J. (1849) Elements of chemistry, theoretical and practical : including the most recent discoveries and applications of the science to medicine and pharmacy, to agriculture, and to manufactures, 2nd ed., Dublin : Hodges and Smith, 1069 p.
  • Kane, R. [1844](1971) Industrial Resources of Ireland, The Development of industrial society series, Shannon, Ireland : Irish University Press, ISBN 0-7165-1599-7


  • Childs, Peter [n.d] Robert John Kane 1809 – 1890, web page, University of Limerick
  • O'Donnell, S. (1976) "Sir Robert Kane - resources pioneer", Technology Ireland, (Sept.), p. 39–40
  • Reilly, D. (1955) "Irish chemist and educator", J. Chem. Educ., 32, p. 404–406
  • Wheeler, T.S. (1945) "Sir Robert John Kane", Endeavour, 4, p. 91-93
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Robert_Kane_(chemist)". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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