Jean-Baptiste Boussingault

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Jean-Baptiste Boussingault

Jean-Baptiste (Joseph Dieudonné) Boussingault (born February 2, 1802 in Paris , † May 11, 1887 ibid) was a French chemist and agricultural scientist.

Live and act

Jean-Baptiste Boussingault, son of a businessman, went to South America in 1821 after studying as a mining engineer on behalf of an English company. Here he primarily dealt with geological investigations. On the recommendation of Alexander von Humboldt , he undertook extensive research trips to South America and gained a high academic reputation. His attempt to climb the Chimborazo in 1831 together with the English colonel and journalist Francis Hall († 1833) failed. In 1832 he returned to France. In 1834 he became professor of chemistry in Lyon, in 1839 he was given a chair in agricultural and analytical chemistry at the Paris Conservatory.

Boussingault had already bought an estate in Pechelbronn / Alsace in 1836 and set up an agricultural test station there. Here he dealt with problems of animal nutrition and photosynthesis, but above all with questions of soil fertility , crop rotation and fertilization. He was particularly interested in the nitrogen nutrition of plants.

In 1837 Boussingault carried out container tests with legumes . Without additional nitrogen fertilization, he was able to demonstrate high nitrogen gains in the harvested plant mass. He concluded that the plants take up nitrogen from the air as they grow. Although he later deviated from this conclusion on the basis of the results of other experiments, his experiments from 1837 gave birth to the idea of ​​a biological fixation of elementary atmospheric nitrogen by plants. It was not until 1886 that Hermann Hellriegel was able to convincingly prove the correctness of this idea. Also in 1837, based on experiments with heavy oil from the Pechelbronn strata , Boussingault coined the name asphaltene , which is still used today, for certain non-volatile petroleum components.

Boussingault was not only an outstanding chemist, but also a farmer with practical experience who managed his estate according to scientific principles. With his book Économie rurale (2 volumes, Paris 1844 and 1845), which has been translated into several languages ​​- a German-language edition has also been published - he has had a lasting influence on the development of plant nutrition, soil science and plant cultivation into independent agricultural disciplines.

In 1848 Boussingault was elected to the National Assembly as a moderate Republican and three years later dismissed from teaching due to his political commitment.

In 1839, with the support of Humboldt, he was elected a member of the Académie des Sciences in Paris, from 1856 he was a corresponding member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences , from 1883 a member of the National Academy of Sciences .

Main work

  • Agriculture in its relationship to chemistry, physics and meteorology. German language edition of Èconomie rurale , translated by N. Graeger. 2 volumes. Hall 1844 u. 1845; 2nd Edition. ibid .; Volume 3 1851 u. Volume 4 = Supplement volume also entitled Contributions to Agricultural Chemistry and Physiology , ibid. 1856.



  • Richard P. Aulie: Boussingault and the nitrogen cycle. In: Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society , Vol. 114, No. 6, 1970, pp. 435-479 (with picture and bibliography).
  • FWJ McCosh: Boussingault. Chemist and Agriculturist. D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht 1984 (with illustrations and complete bibliography).
  • Ulrich Päßler, Thomas Schmuck (ed.), With the collaboration of Eberhard Knobloch: Alexander von Humboldt - Jean-Baptiste Boussingault: Correspondence. In: Contributions to Alexander von Humboldt Research , Volume 41. De Gruyter, Berlin 2015
  • Boussingault, Jean Baptiste Joseph Dieudonné . In: Encyclopædia Britannica . 11th edition. tape 4 : Bishārīn - Calgary . London 1910, p. 334 (English, full text [ Wikisource ]).

Web links

Commons : Jean-Baptiste Boussingault  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. Thomas Schmuck: Death in the Andes. A letter from Francis Hall to Humboldt in 1831 and its historical and political background. In: HiN - International Journal for Humboldt Studies , Volume 14, No. 27, 2013, ( ).
  2. Jean-Baptiste Boussingault: About the composition of the earth resins. Annals of Pharmacy. Volume 23, No. 3, 1837, pp. 261-269 ( hdl: 2027 / mdp.39015026322324 ).
  3. Ulrich Päßler: A "Diplomat from the Orinoco Forests". Alexander von Humboldt as mediator between Prussia and France. Steiner, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-515-09344-6 , p. 109.
  4. ^ Historical members of the academy: Jean Baptiste Joseph Dieudonné Boussingault. Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, accessed on February 26, 2015 .
  5. Marco E. Ciriotti, Lorenza Fascio, Marco Pasero: Italian Type Minerals . 1st edition. Edizioni Plus - Università di Pisa, Pisa 2009, ISBN 978-88-8492-592-3 , p. 54 .
  6. Lotte Burkhardt: Directory of eponymous plant names - Extended Edition. Part I and II. Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin , Freie Universität Berlin , Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-946292-26-5 doi: 10.3372 / epolist2018 .