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Jöns Jacob Berzelius
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Scientist
    (August 20, 1779-August 7, 1848)
    Born in Vaversunda, Sweden
    Physician and chemist
    Identified the elements silicon, selenium, thorium, and cerium
    Coined the chemical terms catalysis, polymer and isomer
    Demonstrated how a battery could decompose a compound into its elements, such as water into oxygen and hydrogen (1803)
    Published relative atomic weights of the known elements (1818)
    Secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (1818-48)
    Ennobled as a baron (1835)
    He suffered a nervous breakdown from overworking.
    He married a woman less than half his age. (At the time of the wedding, he was 56, she was 24.)
    He wrote, ‘An active scholar should never count on being or becoming a person who either gives or finds pleasure in social entertainment.’
    He built much of his own lab equipment.
    He was the first chemist to distinguish between organic and inorganic compounds.
    He determined that chemical elements reacted in whole number proportions, providing support for John Dalton’s atomic theory.
    His system of chemical notation remains in use with only one modification: he used a superscript number to indicate the number of atoms of an element in a compound instead of a subscript (writing H2O for water instead of H2O).
    He revived the stagnating Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and brought it into a second golden age.
    He is considered one of the founders of modern chemistry, along with Dalton, Robert Boyle and Antoine Lavoisier.

Credit: C. Fishel


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