Matthew Carey Lea

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Matthew Carey Lea , also Mathew, often quoted as M. Carey Lea and called Carey Lea, (born August 18, 1823 in Philadelphia , † March 15, 1897 in Chestnut Hill , Philadelphia County ) was an American chemist .


He was the son of the scientist and publisher Isaac Lea (1792-1886) from a Quaker family in Philadelphia and Francis Anne Carey (1799-1873), the daughter of the publisher Mathew Carey . His brother was the famous historian Henry Charles Lea . Matthew Carey Lea was a lawyer by profession (licensed in 1847), but his main interests were chemistry and photography. He published on photochemistry and in 1871 a Manual of Photography . A photo chemical still used today (Carey Lea Silver) is named after him. Wealthy by nature, he had his own private laboratory. His laboratory books were destroyed on his instructions after his death.

In chemistry he is considered to be the founder of mechanochemistry , a term that Wilhelm Ostwald coined in 1919 and in which the mechanical influence on solid-state reactions is investigated. Lea published on this in 1882.

He never had a formal education, but was taught by private tutors. He also received his chemical training at the age of 18 in a commercial chemical laboratory (Booth, Garrett and Blair in Philadelphia), which led to its first publication in 1841 (he confirmed a hypothesis by his father that the coal in the southern Pennsylvania coalfield from east to West becomes more bituminous). His younger brother, the historian Henry Charles Lea, also studied chemistry in the aforementioned laboratory in his youth and published on manganese oxide in 1841 at the age of 16.

Mattew Carey Lea dealt early with atomic theory and looked for regularities in the properties of the elements. He dealt in particular with picric acid , found a new method of representation and synthesized many of its salts (including its urea and quinine salts). He also tried unsuccessfully in the American Civil War to convince the US government to use picric acid for explosives and gunpowder because it had a higher explosive power than black powder and was smokeless. He was ahead of his time with the proposals.

He had been a member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1892 and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1887 .


  • Edgar Fahs Smith M. Carey Lea, Chemist, 1823-1897 , J. Chem. Education, Vol. 20, 1943, 577

Individual evidence

  1. Lea Papers
  2. He collected shells and studied geology
  3. Stephan Kipp, Vladimir Sepelak, Klaus Dieter Becker Mechanochemistry , Chemistry in Our Time, Volume 39, 2005, 384-392
  4. M. Carey Lea, Phil. Mag., Volume 34, 1882, 46