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Benjamin Collins Brodie, Bart., F.R.S., D.C.L

Nature volume 23, pages 126127 | Download Citation



ON Wednesday, November 24 last, died Benjamin Collins Brodie the younger, a worthy son of a distinguished sire. Born to affluence, but early imbued with the liberal and high-minded views of the great surgeon, he determined to devote his life and energies to the prosecution of science for its own sake, and well has he done his work. Brodie was born in London in 1817, and educated first at Harrow under Longley, and afterwards at Balliol, taking his Master's degree in 1842. In those days it was absolutely impossible to carry out original chemical work at Oxford, and Brodie naturally betook himself to Giessen, where Liebig's name drew students from all parts of the world. There in the summer of 1845 Brodie, at Liebig's suggestion, carried out analyses of certain waxes obtained by Gundlach by feeding bees on different kinds of sugar. The results thus obtained led him to continue his examination of bees'-wax on his return to England, and from his private laboratory in the Albert Road now came forth his well-known researches on the Chemical Nature of Wax (Phil. Trans. 1848, 147–170; 1849, 91–108), for which in 1850 he received the well-merited reward of the Royal Medal. These researches will always remain not only remarkable as having given a successful solution of a difficult problem, but as having proved, by careful preparation and exact analysis, the existence in wax of solid bodies which play the part of alcohols, and of which common spirit of wine is a direct lineal descendant. This unexpected discovery of solid alcohols containing respectively twenty-seven and thirty atoms of carbon in the molecule completely confirmed the truth of the views concerning the existence of an homologous series of alcohols first enunciated by Schiel and Gerhardt, and thus placed in firm position one of the chief pillars of the organic portion of our science.

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