Robert Bunsen

box_width = 300px
name = Robert Bunsen

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birth_date = birth date|1811|3|31|df=y
birth_place = Göttingen, Germany
death_date = death date and age|1899|8|16|1811|3|31|df=y
death_place = Heidelberg, Germany
residence = Germany
nationality = German
field = Chemist
work_institutions = Polytechnic School of Kassel
University of Marburg
University of Heidelberg
alma_mater = University of Göttingen
doctoral_advisor = Friedrich Stromeyer
doctoral_students = nowrap|Adolf von Baeyer

Fritz Haber

Philipp Lenard

Georg Ludwig Carius

Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe

Adolf Lieben

Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig

Viktor Meyer

Friedrich Konrad Beilstein

Henry Enfield Roscoe

John Tyndall

Edward Frankland

Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev

Thomas Edward Thorpe

Francis Robert Japp
known_for = Discoveries of caesium and rubidium; Bunsen burner, development of spectrochemical analysis
prizes = Copley medal (1860)
religion =
footnotes =

Robert Wilhelm Eberhard Bunsen (31 March 1811 – 16 August 1899) was a German chemist. He worked on emission spectroscopy of heated elements, and with Gustav Kirchhoff he discovered caesium and rubidium. Bunsen developed several gas-analytical methods, he was a pioneer in photochemistry, and he did early work in the field of organoarsenic chemistry. With his laboratory assistant, Peter Desaga, he developed the Bunsen burner, an improvement on the laboratory burners then in use. The Bunsen-Kirchhoff Award for spectroscopy is named after him and his colleague, Gustav Kirchhoff.

Life and work

Bunsen was born in Göttingen, Germany. He was the youngest of four sons of the University of Göttingen's chief librarian and professor of modern philology, Christian Bunsen (1770–1837). [cite journal | author = | title = Professor Robert W. Bunsen | journal = The Journal of the American Chemical Society | year = 1900 | volume = 23 | pages = 89 – 107 | url = | accessdate = 2007-09-11 ] After attending school in Holzminden, Robert Bunsen studied chemistry. During this time, he met Friedrich Runge (who discovered aniline and in 1819 isolated caffeine), Justus von Liebig in Gießen, and Alexander Mitscherlich in Bonn.

Bunsen became a lecturer at Göttingen and began experimental studies of the (in)solubility of metal salts of arsenous acid. Today, his discovery of the use of iron oxide hydrate as a precipitating agent is still the best-known antidote against arsenic poisoning.

In 1836, Bunsen succeeded Friedrich Wöhler at Kassel. Bunsen taught there for two years, and then accepted a position at the University of Marburg, where he studied cacodyl derivatives. Although Bunsen's work brought him quick and wide acclaim, cacodyl, is toxic, has a strong combustion in dry air. Bunsen almost died from arsenic poisoning, and an explosion with cacodyl cost him sight in his right eye. In 1841, Bunsen created the Bunsen cell, using a carbon electrode instead of the expensive platinum electrode used in William Robert Grove's Grove cell. In 1850 he taught at Breslau.

In 1852, Bunsen took the position of Leopold Gmelin at Heidelberg. There he used electrolysis to produce pure metals, such as chromium, magnesium, aluminium, manganese, sodium, barium, calcium and lithium. A ten-year collaboration with Henry Enfield Roscoe began in 1852, in which they studied the photochemical formation of hydrogen chloride from hydrogen and chlorine.

Bunsen discontinued his work with Roscoe in 1859 and joined Gustav Kirchhoff to study emission spectra of heated elements, a research area called spectrum analysis. For this work, Bunsen and his laboratory assistant, Peter Desaga, had perfected a special gas burner by 1855, influenced by an earlier one of Michael Faraday. The newer design of Bunsen and Desaga is now called simply the "Bunsen burner". [cite journal | last =Jensen | first =William B. | authorlink = | coauthors = | title =The Origin of the Bunsen Burner | journal = Journal of Chemical Education | volume = 82 | issue = 4 | pages = | publisher = | date =2005 | url = | doi = | id = | accessdate =] [See Michael Faraday's "Chemical Manipulation, Being Instructions to Students in Chemistry" (1827)]

When Bunsen retired at the age of 78, he shifted his work solely to geology and mineralogy, an interest which he had pursued throughout his career. He died in Heidelberg, and was buried there.

For further reading

* [,M1 "Gasometry: Comprising the Leading Physical and Chemical Properties of Gases"] by Robert Bunsen (1857) London: Walton and Maberly (translated by Henry Roscoe)

* "Robert Wilhelm Bunsen", G. Lockeman, 1949.

* Sir Henry Roscoe's "Bunsen Memorial Lecture," "Trans. Chem. Soc.", 1900, reprinted (in German) with other obituary notices in an edition of Bunsen's collected works published by Ostwald and Bodenstein in 3 vols. at Leipzig in 1904.


Notes and references

External links

* [ Robert Wilhelm Bunsen]
* [ Bunsen and Kirchhoff]
* [ Robert Wilhelm Bunsen]

NAME= Bunsen, Robert
DATE OF BIRTH= 31 March 1811
PLACE OF BIRTH= Göttingen, Germany
DATE OF DEATH= 16 August 1899
PLACE OF DEATH= Heidelberg, Germany

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