Charles Friedel - Encyclopedia

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FRIEDEL, CHARLES (1832-1899), French chemist and mineralogist, was born at Strassburg on the 12th of March 1832. After graduating at Strassburg University he spent a year in the counting-house of his father, a banker and merchant, and then in 1851 went to live in Paris with his maternal grandfather, Georges Louis Duvernoy (1777-1855), professor of natural history and, from 1850, of comparative anatomy, at the College de France. In 1854 he entered C. A. Wurtz's laboratory, and in 1856, at the instance of H. H. de Senarmont (1808-1862), was appointed conservator of the mineralogical collections at the Ecole des Mines. In 1871 he began to lecture in place of A. L. O. L. Des Cloizeaux (1817-1897) at the Ecole Normale, and in 1876 he became professor of mineralogy at the Sorbonne, but on the death of Wurtz in 1884 he exchanged that position for the chair of organic chemistry. He died at Montauban on the 20th of April 1899. Friedel achieved distinction both in miner alogy and organic chemistry. In the former he was one of the leading workers, in collaboration from 1879 to 1887 with Emile Edmond Sarasin (1843-1890), at the formation of minerals by artificial means, particularly in the wet way with the aid of heat and pressure, and he succeeded in reproducing a large number of the natural compounds. In 1893, as the result of an attempt to make diamond by the action of sulphur on highly carburetted cast iron at 450°-500° C. he obtained a black powder too small in quantity to be analysed but hard enough to scratch corundum. He also devoted much attention to the pyroelectric phenomena of crystals, which served as the theme of one of the two memoirs he presented for the degree of D.Sc. in 1869, and to the determination of crystallographic constants. In organic chemistry, his study of the ketones and aldehydes, begun in 1857, provided him with the subject of his other doctoral thesis. In 1862 he prepared secondary propyl alcohol, and in 1863, with James Mason Crafts (b. 1839), for many years a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, he obtained various organometallic compounds of silicon. A few years later further work, with Albert Ladenburg, on the same element yielded silicochloroform and:led to a demonstration of the close analogy existing between the behaviour in combination of silicon and carbon. In 1871, with R. D. da Silva (b. 1837) he synthesized glycerin, starting from propylene. In 1877, with Crafts, he made the first publication of the fruitful and widely used method for synthesizing benzene homologues now generally known as the "Friedel and Crafts reaction." It was based on an accidental observation of the action of metallic aluminium on amyl chloride, and consists in bringing together a hydrocarbon and an organic chloride in presence of aluminium chloride, when the residues of the two compounds unite to form a more complex body. Friedel was associated with Wurtz in editing the latter's Dictionnaire de chimie, and undertook the supervision of the supplements issued after 1884. He was the chief founder of the Revue generale de chimie in 1899. His publications include a Notice sur la vie et les travaux de Wurtz (1885), Cours de chimie organique (1887) and Cours de mineralogie (1893). He acted as president of the International Congress held at Geneva in 1892 for revising the nomenclature of the fatty acid series.

See a memorial lecture by J. M. Crafts, printed in the Journal of the London Chemical Society for 1900.

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