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Berthollet's Gunpowder Experiment

Berthollet's Gunpowder Experiment

C030/0160

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52.1 MB (52.0 compressed)

4960 x 3668 pixels

41.9 x 31.0 cm ⏐ 16.5 x 12.2 in (300dpi)

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Credit

SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Following his research into chlorine, the French chemist Claude-Louis Berthollet (1748-1822), believed that the replacement of the saltpetre (potassium nitrate) in gunpowder by potassium chlorate would produce a more powerful explosive. In 1788, the chemist Antoine Lavoisier, a Director of the Régie des Poudres, organised a trial production run of Berthollet's formulation. In attendance at the trial were Berthollet, M. Chevraud, a commissioner in the gunpowder service, his sister Mlle. Chevraud, and M. & Mme Lavoisier. According to his published account, Lavoisier had given strict safety instructions, but the factory manager M. Le Tort did not completely follow them, resulting in an explosion in which Le Tort and Mlle. Chevraud were killed. Berthollet, M. Chevraud and the Lavoisiers were unharmed, being some distance away. The potassium chlorate trials were abandoned.

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