History of Organic Analysis


    PRIOR to the introduction of elementary organic combustion analysis early in the nineteenth century, organic matter was analysed, over a period of nearly two centuries, by dry distillation, the results being expressed in weighed fractions of gaseous part, phlegma, oil and carbon residue, or later as carbonic oxide, carbonic acid, water, empyreumatic oil, acidic fraction, carburetted hydrogen and charcoal. The germ of this method is found in Beguin's “Siemens de Chymie”, 1615. Nierenstein (Isis, 21, 123; 1934) has shown that there was a period of transition between the old and new methods of analysis, represented by a work of Nees von Esenbeck, Bischof and Rothe, “Die Entwickelung der Pflanzensubstanz”, Erlangen, 1819, a rare book which is otherwise of considerable interest in the history of plant chemistry This contains tables, from which the chemical formulae may be deduced from the results of distillation analyses, containing 981 ‘complexion's of the five binary compounds of oxygen, hydrogen and carbon, namely, water, carbonic oxide, carbonic acid, olefiant gas and marsh gas. These tables were the precursor of Richter's percentage tables now widely used.

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    History of Organic Analysis. Nature 134, 95 (1934). https://doi.org/10.1038/134095c0

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