Prof. Camille Matignon

Abstract

ARTHME CAMILLE MATIGNON, president of the French Chemical Society, who died suddenly in Paris on March 18, was a leading figure in pure chemistry and a great exponent of chemical technology. Matignon was born at Saint Maurice-aux-Riches-Hommes, Yonne, on January 3, 1867, and entered the Ecole Normale, Paris, in 1886; three years later he became assistant to Berthelot at the College de France and commenced a long series of original contributions to our knowledge of thermochemistry. After spending five years at the University of Lille as lecturer and professor, he was appointed as a temporary professor at the College de France in 1902, a supplementary professor in 1903 and, on the death of Berthelot, became professor of inorganic chemistry in 1908, holding this post until his death. Matignon early concerned himself with the great problem of the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen and the synthetic production of ammonia; he studied the direct combination of many of the metals with nitrogen, showing that zinc dust always contains zinc nitride, and preparing the nitrides of a number of the rare earth metals. Certain of the nitrides, such as those of silicon and aluminium, were probably formed during the cooling of the earth and, by the action of water vapour, gave ammonia, the first form in which nitrogen became available for assimilation by plant life. Matignon maintained that the increased use of artificial nitrogenous fertilisers was essential to the development of French agriculture; he followed up the advocacy of this principle by working out methods for the economic production of phosphates and potassium salts for use as manures.

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