Robert Wilhelm Bunsen

HomePage | Recent changes | View source | Discuss this page | Page history | Log in |

Printable version | Disclaimers | Privacy policy

   March 30, 1811
   Göttingen, Germany
Does anyone have a PD image?
   August 16, 1899
   Heidelberg, Germany
Bunsen was a German chemist. He perfected the burner that was named after him, and worked on emission spectroscopy of heated elements.

Bunsen was born as the youngest of four sons. After visiting school in Holzminden, Bunsen studied chemistry at Göttingen university. After receiving his doctorate with 19, Bunsen traveled across western Europe from 1830 to 1833. During this time, he met Runge, the discoverer of aniline, Justus von Liebig in Giessen, and Mitscherlich in Bonn.

After his return to Germany, Bunsen became a lecturer at Göttingen and began experimental studies of the (in)solubility of metal salts of arsenious acid. Today, his discovery of the use of iron oxide hydrate as a precipitating agent is still the best known antidote against arsenic poisoning.

In 1836, Bunsen succeed Wöhler at Kassel. After teaching there for two years, he accepted a position at the University of Marburg, where he studied cacodyl derivatives. Although Bunsen's work brought him quick and wide acclaim, he almost killed himself from arsenic poisoning. It also cost him the sight of one eye, when an explosion propelled a glass sliver into his eye. In 1841, Bunsen created a carbon electrode that could be used insteds of the expensive platinum electrode used in Grove's battery.

In 1852, Bunsen took the position of Leopold Gmelin at Heidelberg. Using nitric acid, he was able to produce pure metals such as chromium, magnesium, aluminum, manganese, sodium, barium, calcium and lithium by electrolysis. A ten year collaboration with Sir Henry Roscoe began in 1852, studying the formation of HCl from hydrogen and chlorine

In 1859, Bunsen discontinued his work with Roscoe to study emission spectroscopy of heated elements together with Gustav Kirchhoff. For that purpose, Bunsen developed a special gas burner that was later named "Bunsen Burner". When Bunsen retired at the age of 78, he shifted his interest to geology, which had been a long-term hobby of his.