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Chaptal, Jean Antoine Claude

CHAPTAL, JEAN ANTOINE CLAUDE, Comte de Chante-loup (1756-1832), French chemist and statesman, was born at Nogaret, Lozère, on the 4th of June 1756. The son of an apothecary, he studied chemistry at Montpellier, obtaining his doctor's diploma in 1777, when he repaired to Paris. In 1781 the States of Languedoc founded a chair of chemistry for him at the school of medicine in Montpellier, where he taught the doctrines of Lavoisier. The capital he acquired by the death of a wealthy uncle he employed in the establishment of chemical works for the manufacture of the mineral acids, alum, white-lead, soda and other substances. His labours in the cause of applied science were at length recognized by the French government, which presented him with letters of nobility, and the cordon of the order of Saint Michel. During the Revolution a publication by Chaptal, entitled Dialogue entre un Montagnard et un Girondin, caused him to be arrested; but being speedily set at liberty through the intermission of his friends, he undertook, in 1793, the management of the saltpetre works at Grenelle. In the following year he went to Montpellier, where he remained till 1797, when he returned to Paris. After the coup d'état of the 18th of Brumaire (November 9, 1799) he was made a councillor of state by the First Consul, and succeeded Lucien Bonaparte as minister of the interior, in which capacity he established a chemical manufactory near Paris, a school of arts, and a society of industries; he also reorganized the hospitals, introduced the metrical system of weights and measures, and otherwise greatly encouraged the arts and sciences. A misunderstanding between him and Napoleon (who conferred upon him the title of comte de Chanteloup) occasioned Chaptal's retirement from office in 1804; but before the end of that year he was again received into favour by the emperor, who bestowed on him the grand cross of the Legion of Honour, and made him treasurer to the conservative senate. On Napoleon's return from Elba, Chaptal was made director-general of commerce and manufactures and a minister of state. He was obliged after the downfall of the emperor to withdraw into private life; and his name was removed from the list of the peers of France until 1819. In 1816, however, he was nominated a member of the Academy of Sciences by Louis XVIII. Chaptal was especially a popularizer of science, attempting to apply to industry and agriculture the discoveries of chemistry. In this way he contributed largely to the development of modern industry. He died at Paris on the 30th of July 1832.

His literary works exhibit both vigour and perspicuity of style; he wrote, in addition to various articles, especially in the Annales de chimie, Elémens de chimie (3 vols., 1790; new ed., 1796-1803); Traité du salpètre et des goudrons (1796); Tableau des principaux sels terreux (1798); Essai sur le perfectionnement des arts chimiques en France (1800); Art de faire, de gouverner, et de perfectionner les vins (1 vol., 1801; new ed., 1819); Traité théorique et pratique sur la culture de la vigne, etc., (2 vols., 1801; new ed., 1811); Essai sur le blanchiment (1801); La Chimie appliquée aux arts (4 vols., 1806); Art de la teinture du coton en rouge (1807); Art du teinturier et du dégraisseur (1800); De l'industrie française (2 vols., 1819); Chimie appliquée a l'agriculture (2 vols., 1823; new ed., 1829).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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