SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Christian Friedrich Schonbein (1799-1868), German-Swiss chemist, professor of chemistry and physics in Basle University. He is mainly remembered for the discovery in 1839 of an allotropic form of an oxygen molecule which was produced during the operation of electrical devices and had a distinctive odour. He named this gas 'ozone'. In 1845 he discovered how to produce guncotton (nitrocellulose) from cotton immersed in nitric and sulphuric acid. This eventually replaced gunpowder as an artillery propellant. Another product based on nitrocellulose was collodion. Important in the development of photography it also found uses in medicine. In 1838 Schonbein discovered the principle of the fuel cell which produced electricity from hydrogen and oxygen. He cooperated with the physicist Sir William Grove who built the first practical fuel cell.
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