Anselme Payen

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Anselme Payen
Anselme Payen.jpg
Anselme Payen
Born6 January 1795
Died12 May 1871 (aged 76)
Known forDiscovered diastase and cellulose
Scientific career
InstitutionsÉcole Centrale Paris

Anselme Payen (French: [pa.jɛ̃]; 6 January 1795 – 12 May 1871) was a French chemist known for discovering the enzyme diastase, and the carbohydrate cellulose.


Payen was born in Paris. He began studying science with his father when he was a 13-year-old, and later studied Chemistry at the École Polytechnique under the chemists Louis Nicolas Vauquelin and Michel Eugène Chevreul.[1]

At the age of 23, Payen became manager of a borax-refining factory, where he developed a process for synthesizing borax from soda and boric acid. Previously, all borax had been imported from the East Indies exclusively by the Dutch. Payen's new method of synthesizing borax allowed him to sell the mineral at one third the going price, and break the Dutch monopoly.

Payen also developed processes for refining sugar, along with a way to refine starch and alcohol from potatoes, and a method for determination of nitrogen. Payen invented a decolorimeter, which dealt with the analysis, decolorization, bleaching, and crystallization of sugar.

Payen discovered the first enzyme, diastase, in 1833.[2][3] He is also known for isolating and naming the carbohydrate cellulose.[4]

In 1835, Payen became a professor at École Centrale Paris. He was later elected professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers. He died in Paris on May 13, 1871.


The American Chemical Society's Cellulose and Renewable Materials Division has established an annual award in his honor, the Anselme Payen Award.[5]


  1. ^ "Encarta". Archived from the original on 2009-08-29.
  2. ^ A. Payen and J.-F. Persoz (1833) "Mémoire sur la diastase, les principaux produits de ses réactions et leurs applications aux arts industriels" (Memoir on diastase, the principal products of its reactions, and their applications to the industrial arts), Annales de chimie et de physique, 2nd series, vol. 53, pages 73–92.
  3. ^ Fessner, W.D. (2000). Biocatalysis: From Discovery to Application. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 3-540-66970-1.
  4. ^ A. Payen (1838) "Mémoire sur la composition du tissu propre des plantes et du ligneux" (Memoir on the composition of the tissue of plants and of woody [material]), Comptes rendus, vol. 7, pages 1052–1056. Payen added appendices to this paper on 24 December 1838 (see: Comptes rendus, vol. 8, page 169 (1839)) and on 4 February 1839 (see: Comptes rendus, vol. 9, page 149 (1839)). A committee of the French Academy of Sciences reviewed Payen's findings in : Jean-Baptiste Dumas (1839) "Rapport sur un mémoire de M. Payen, relatif à la composition de la matière ligneuse" (Report on a memoir of Mr. Payen, regarding the composition of woody matter), Comptes rendus, vol. 8, pages 51–53. In this report, the word "cellulose" is coined and the author points out the similarity between the empirical formula of cellulose and that of dextrine (starch). The above articles are reprinted in: Brongniart and Guillemin, eds., Annales des sciences naturelles... , 2nd series, vol. 11 (Paris, France: Crochard et Cie., 1839), pages 21–31.
  5. ^ "ACS Cellulose and Renewable Materials Division - Anselme Payen Award".