Pierre Bayen

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Pierre Bayen

Pierre Bayen (born February 7, 1725 in Chalons-sur-Marne , † February 15, 1798 in Paris ) was a French chemist. He played a role as the forerunner of Antoine Laurent de Lavoisier in refuting the phlogiston theory of combustion, and he came very close to the discovery of oxygen .


Bayen attended the Collège de Troyes and completed an apprenticeship as a pharmacist in Reims . From 1749 he studied in Paris with Guillaume Francois Rouelle , the demonstrator for chemistry in the Jardin du Roi . From 1755 he was a pharmacist on the French expedition to Menorca against the English and from 1756 he was general inspector of the field pharmacies of the French army in Germany during the Seven Years War and from 1766 for the whole French army. He later worked closely with the Army Inspector General for Medicine Richard.

In 1765 he was officially commissioned to investigate mineral waters in France (Analysis des eaux de Bagnères-de-Luchon 1765).

Bayen came very close to the discovery of oxygen in experiments that he published in 1774. He heated mercury oxide and observed the escape of a gas and mercury as a residue. Conversely, with this gas he was able to convert mercury into mercury oxide, and the weight increased. He then renounced the phlogiston theory, according to which a substance called phlogiston escapes when burned. Since Bayen did not investigate the properties of the gas he observed in more detail (according to the current reasoning), the discoverer of oxygen today is generally considered to be Joseph Priestley , who carried out similar experiments in 1774 (in contrast to Bayen, however, continued to follow the phlogiston theory), Lavoisier ( 1776, who had knowledge of Priestley's experiments through conversations with him, finally refuted the phlogiston theory and systematically researched the properties of the air components) and Carl Wilhelm Scheele (who perhaps even had priority, but did not publish it until 1777).

Lavoisier never mentioned Bayen in his publications, which Bayen complained about. Since he was relatively unknown, Lavoisier ignored him (according to Lavoisier's biographer Ferenc Szabadvary).

Bayen also examined minerals and certain, for example, arsenic proportions in tin ore. At the time of the French Revolution, he was commissioned with Hilaire-Marin Rouelle and Louis Martin Charlard to investigate the arsenic contamination of tin used as dishes. This was published in Recherches chimiques sur l'etain in 1781. He also published in the Journal de Physique and in the Annales de chimie .

In 1795 he was elected a member of the Académie des Sciences . He was a member of the Institut national de France, the Collège de Pharmacie de Paris and the Societé de Médecine. The military hospital in Chalons-sur-Marne bears his name.


  • Opucscules Chimiques, 2 volumes, Paris: Dugour et Durand, 1798 (year VI of the Republic)


  • Winfried Pötsch u. a. Lexicon of important chemists , Harri Deutsch 1989
  • Max Speter: Lavoisier and his predecessors, Stuttgart: Enke 1910 (with chapter on Bayen)
  • SM Jörgensen: The discovery of oxygen, Stuttgart: Enke 1909 (translation from Danish)
  • Hermann Kopp History of Chemistry , Volume 3, Braunschweig 1845, pp. 145 f. (short biography in the footnote)
  • Pierre Labrude: Pierre Bayen (1725-1798) organisateur de la pharmacie militaire, chimiste, Revue histoire de la pharmacie, Volume 87, 1999, pp 459-466
  • P. Lemay, Hehrmanie-Leturgie, E. Humbert-Guitard, M. Bouvet, L. Irissou: Hommage à Bayen, Revue histoire pharmacie, Volume 44, 1956, pp. 469-477
  • Sylvie Oulieu: Contribution à l'histoire de la pharmacie: les pharmaciens de la Grande Armée, Thèse d'état de docteur en pharmacie, University of Lyon I, 1986
  • A. Balland: Les pharmaciens militaires, 1913.
  • A. Parmentier: Eloge de Pierre Bayen, 1798

Web links

Wikisource: Pierre Bayen  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Journal de Physique des Abbé Rozier, Volume 3, April 1774, p. 285, and in the February edition as well as in February 1775, in which he spoke out clearly against the phlogiston theory.
  2. Szabadvary Antoine Laurent Lavoisier , Teubner 1987, p. 32 f. To Priestley, who was well respected and who also complained and emphasized that he had presented his results in 1774 in the presence of Lavoisier, Lavoisier argued that the discovery occurred at about the same time, and further emphasized that Priestley still adhered to the phlogiston theory, when he called it (oxygen) dephlogistonized air to explain why it promoted combustion. He also openly admitted that there was rivalry between France and England on this issue, with corresponding partiality on priority issues.
  3. ^ Mary Elvira Weeks: Discovery of the Elements. Journal of Chemical Education, 6th edition 1956, p. 46.
  4. ^ List of members since 1666: Letter B. Académie des sciences, accessed on September 16, 2019 (French).