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Christian Schoenbein, German chemist

Christian Schoenbein, German chemist

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ROYAL INSTITUTION OF GREAT BRITAIN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ROYAL INSTITUTION OF GREAT BRITAIN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

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Christian Friedrich Schoenbein (1799-1868), German-Swiss chemist. Schoenbein was born at Metzingen and was apprenticed to a chemical firm. During this time he studied chemistry theory, sufficient to pass the examination of the University of Tubingen. After several study and teaching positions he eventally settled at Basel. During experiments on the electrolysis of water he noticed a distinctive smell that Schoenbein attributed to a new gas that he named ozone, after the Greek 'ozein' meaning to smell. In 1845 he was experimenting at home when he spilt a mixture of nitric and sulphuric acids. He mopped this up with his wife's cotton apron, which when hung up to dry burst into brilliant and fast burning flame. Schoenbein has discovered nitrocellulose, although it was the work of Dewar 50 years later that meant it could be produced safely as the artillery propellant guncotton.

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