Charles Thilorier

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Charles-Saint-Ange Thilorier was a student at the École polytechnique in the class / year of 1815, who was mistakenly believed to have been the first person to create solid carbon dioxide ("dry ice"). Actually, a French inventor, Adrien-Jean-Pierre Thilorier (1790–1844), discovered dry ice.

Unfortunately, in almost all of his technical articles, Adrien Thilorier gave his name simply as "Thilorier";[1] similarly, whenever others referred to him in technical articles, his name was also given only as "Thilorier". This impeded efforts by scholars to identify him subsequently.[2] The confusion was compounded when Paul Thénard wrote a biography of his father, Louis Thénard, a French chemist:[3] In 1835, Adrien Thilorier had created dry ice by spraying liquid carbon dioxide into a glass vessel. He had thought that the dry ice was merely snow; that is, water vapor from the atmosphere which had condensed as a result of the cold that the evaporation of the liquid carbon dioxide had produced. Louis Thénard had explained to Thilorier that his "snow" was actually solidified carbon dioxide.[4] In a footnote of Louis Thénard's biography, Paul Thénard identified the "Thilorier" who discovered dry ice as "Charles-Saint-Ange Thilorier", a student at the École polytechnique in the class of 1815.[5] This (mistaken) identification was mentioned by Duane H. D. Roller, a graduate student at Harvard University, in a paper that was published in 1952.[6] Consequently, many sources claim that Charles-Saint-Ange Thilorier discovered dry ice.

Adrien-Jean-Pierre Thilorier was an employee of the French Post Office in Paris who invented, among other things, an oil lamp, a gas compressor, and an apparatus for producing liquid carbon dioxide. It was a French scholar who revealed that he had discovered dry ice.

During the 1960s, Madeleine Ambrière-Fargeaud, a scholar in France, was trying to identify the person who served as the model for a "mad scientist" character, Balthazar Claës, in Honoré de Balzac's novel La Recherche de l’absolu (The Quest of the Absolute). Her research suggested that Claës was inspired (in part) by Adrien-Jean-Pierre Thilorier.[7] By 2003, Joost Mertens, a Dutch historian of science, had verified many of the findings that Ms. Ambrière-Fargeaud had made about Thilorier.[8]

That "Thilorier" is actually Adrien-Jean-Pierre Thilorier is proved by French government documents, especially patents. In 1826, he was granted a patent for a "hydrostatic lamp"; the patent lists his name as "Thilorier (Adrien-Jean-Pierre)" of Paris.[9] His 1831 patent for a gas compressor also lists his name as "Thilorier (Adrien-Jean-Pierre)" and describes him as an employee of the "Administration des postes" (i.e., the Post Office) in Paris.[10] In 1832, the Bulletin of the laws of the kingdom of France also lists him as "Thilorier (Adrien-Jean-Pierre)" and as an employee of the Post Office, who resided at number 21 on the Place Vendôme in Paris, and as the inventor of a gas compressor.[11]


  1. ^ However, his name is given as "A. Thilorier" in one article: A. Thilorier (1836) "Acide carbonique liquéfié et solidifié" (Liquefied and solidified carbonic acid), Journal de chimie médicale, de pharmacie et de toxicologie, 2nd series, 2 : 3-8.
  2. ^ Even a brief (romanticized) biographical article about Thilorier didn't mention his first name. See: Samuel-Henry Berthoud, Les Petites chroniques de la science (Paris, France: Garnier Frères, 1861), volume 2, pages 180-186.
  3. ^ Paul Thénard, Un grand Français: Le chimiste Thénard (1777-1857) (Dijon, France: Imprimerie Jobard, 1950).
  4. ^ See:
    • Thilorier (1835) "Solidification de l’acide carbonique" (Solidification of carbonic acid), Comptes rendus … , 1 : 194-196; see especially page 196.
    • Thomas O'Conor Sloane, Liquid Air and the Liquefaction of Gases: A Practical Work … , 3rd. ed (New York, New York: Norman W. Henley Publishing Co., 1920), page 138.
    • Paul Thénard (1950), p. 177.
  5. ^ Paul Thénard (1950), p. 176.
  6. ^ Duane H. D. Roller (1952) "Thilorier and the first solidification of a "permanent" gas (1835)", Isis, 43 : 109-113 ; see especially page 111.
  7. ^ Madeleine Ambrière-Fargeaud, Balzac et "La Recherche de l’absolu", 2nd ed. (Paris, France: Presses Universitaires de France, 1999), pp. 91-107.
  8. ^ Joost Mertens (2003) "Du côté d’un chimiste nommé Thilorier: Balthazar Claës modèle d’Adrien Thilorier" (Towards a chemist named Thilorier: Balthazar Claës model Adrien Thilorier), L'Année balzacienne 2003, 1 (4) : 251-263.
  9. ^ Patent 4913: Adrien-Jean Thilorier, "Pour une lampe hydrostatique," Description des machines et procédés spécifiés … , 44 : 416-429 (1841); issued: May 12, 1826.
  10. ^ Patent 2896: Thilorier, Adrien-Jean-Pierre, "Pour le perfectionnement d'une machine à comprimer le gaz, …" (For the improvement of a machine to compress gas, …), Description des Machines et Procédés consignés dans les brevets d'invention, … , 30 : 251-267 (1836); issued: May 16, 1831.
  11. ^ The Bulletin des Lois du Royaume de France (Bulletin of the laws of the kingdom of France), 9th series, part ii, no. 92, page 74 (February 1832) lists: "24° M. Thilorier (Adrien-Jean-Pierre) employé à l'administration des postes, demeurant à Paris, place Vendôme, no 21, auquel il a été délivré le 16 mai dernier, le certificat de sa demande d'un brevet d'invention de dix ans pour le perfectionnement d'une machine à comprimer le gaz; …" (24th Mr. Thilorier (Adrien-Jean-Pierre) employed at the Post Office, residing in Paris, Place Vendôme, no. 21, where was delivered May 16th last, the certificate, by his request, for a patent of invention for ten years for the improvement of a machine to compress gas; … )