Bunsen, Robert Wilhelm von

German chemist

Born: Gottingen, March 31, 1811

Died: Heidelberg, August 16, 1899

Lecoq De Boisbaudran

Bunsen obtained his education at the University of Gottingen, earning his doctorate in 1830. He was appointed a professor at the University of Marburg in 1838 and later moved to the University of Heidelberg.

In his late twenties, he began the work of studying organic arsenic compounds, nearly dying of poisoning through the inhalation of arsenical vapours and losing an eye in a laboratory explosion.

Bunsen investigated the gases produced in blast furnaces aznd devised ways to cut down on heat loss. He invented new methods of gas analysis and various calorimeters for the measurement of heat. He also invented the carbon-zinc battery and a grease-spot photometer for the measurement of light. He was the first to produce magnesium in quantity and showed how the bright light could be of assistance in photography.

By far his most famous invention was a gas burner that drew air through a perforated hole at the bottom. The resulting gas air mixture burnt with a steady heat and little light, with no smoke or flickering. This is still used today and is called the Bunsen burner.

Together, Bunsen and Kirchhoff, invented the technique of spectroscopy in 1860, and discovered two new elements, cesium and rubidium.

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