Jean-Antoine Chaptal

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Jean-Antoine Chaptal
Jean-Antoine Chaptal (1756-1832), comte de Chanteloup.jpg
Jean-Antoine Chaptal
by Anicet Charles Gabriel Lemonnier
Born 4 June 1756
Saint-Pierre-de-Nogaret, Lozère
Died 30 July 1832
Nationality French
Fields chemistry

Jean-Antoine Claude, comte Chaptal de Chanteloup (4 June 1756 – 30 July 1832) was a French chemist and statesman. He established chemical works for the manufacture of the mineral acids, soda and other substances. In Éléments de Chimie [1] (published 1790) he coined a new word for the gas then known as "azote" or "mephitic air." Chaptal's word was nitrogène, which he named for nitre, the chemical which was needed for the production of nitric acid which had been found to contain the gas, and thus possibly (according to theory) to be the oxidized derivative of it. Chaptal's new term for the gas then quickly passed into English as nitrogen.

As Minister of Internal Affairs, he created the Paris Hospital, health councils, and other bodies.[2]

Chaptal was especially strong in applied science, attempting to apply to industry and agriculture the discoveries of chemistry. In this way, he contributed largely to the development of modern industry. The process of adding sugar to unfermented wine in order to increase the final alcohol level is known as chaptalization after him. The Rue Chaptal, at the foot of Montmartre hill in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, also bears his name.


Early life[edit]

Born in Saint-Pierre-de-Nogaret, Lozère, as the son of an apothecary, he studied chemistry at the University of Montpellier, obtaining his doctorate in 1777, when he settled in Paris. In 1781 the States of Languedoc founded a chair of chemistry for him at the school of medicine in Montpellier, where he taught the theories of Antoine Lavoisier. The capital he acquired by the death of a wealthy uncle was employed in the establishment of chemical works for the manufacture of the mineral acids, alum, white-lead, soda and other substances.

His activities in applied science won the recognition of the French government, which presented him with lettres de noblesse, and the cordon of the Ordre de Saint-Michel.


During the French Revolution a publication by Chaptal, entitled Dialogue entre un montagnard et un girondin ("Dialogue between a Montagnard and a Girondist"), caused him to be arrested. He was, however, soon set free through the interventions of his friends. In 1793, he was charged with the management of the saltpetre works at Grenelle. In the following year he went to Montpellier, where he remained until 1797, when he returned to Paris.[3]

Consulate, Empire, and Restoration[edit]

After the 18 Brumaire coup (November 9, 1799) he was made a councillor of state by the First Consul, and succeeded Lucien Bonaparte as Minister of the Interior (coinciding with the establishment of the First French Empire), in which capacity he established a chemical manufactory near Paris, a school of arts, and a society of industries; among many works in the fields of science and the arts, he reorganized the hospitals, introduced the metric system. A misunderstanding between him and Napoleon (who conferred upon him the title of count of Chanteloup) provoked Chaptal's retirement from office in 1804; but before the end of that year he was again received into favor by the emperor, who awarded him with the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor, and made him treasurer to the Senate.

On Napoleon's return from Elba (the Hundred Days), Chaptal was made director-general of commerce and manufactures and a Minister of State. After the Bourbon Restoration, he was forced to withdraw into private life, and his name was removed from the list of the Peers of France until 1819. In 1816, however, he was nominated a member of the French Academy of Sciences by Louis XVIII.

He died in Paris. His name is one of the 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower. The Lycée Chaptal was named in his honor in 1848.

Scientific works[edit]

Chaptal was especially a popularizer of science, attempting to apply to industry and agriculture the discoveries of chemistry. In this way, he contributed largely to the development of modern industry. The process of adding sugar to unfermented wine in order to increase the final alcohol level is known as chaptalization after him.

In addition to various articles, he wrote especially in the Annales de chimie:

  • Éléments de Chimie (3 vols., 1790; new ed., 1796–1803)[1]
    • Elements of chemistry, John Bioren, for John Conrad & Co., Philadelphia, 1801, 673 p.
  • Traité du salpétre et des goudrons (1796)
  • Tableau des principaux sels terreux (1798)
  • Essai sur le perfectionnement des arts chimiques en France (1800)
  • Art de faire, de gouverner, et de perfectionner les vins (1 vol., 1801; new ed, 1819)
    • A treatise upon wines, translated from the French by John H. Sargent, Printed by John H. Sargent, 1811, 166 p.
  • Traité théorique et pratique sur Ia culture de Ia vigne, &c. (2 vols., 1801; new ed., 1811)
  • Essai sur le blanchiment (1801)
  • La Chimie appliquée aux arts (4 vols., 1806)
    • Chemistry applied to arts and manufacture, Printed for R. Phillips, London, 1807
  • Art de la peinture du coton en rouge (1807)
  • Art du peinturier et du digraisseur (1800)
  • De l'industrie française (2 vols., 1819)
  • Chimie appliquée à l'Agriculture (2 vols., 1823; new ed., 1829).

See also[edit]

  • Antoine Germain Labarraque (1777–1850). Student of Chaptal who established the routine use of solutions of chlorine as a disinfectant and deodouriser.


  1. ^ a b Éléments de chimie – SICD University of Strasbourg – digital issue
  2. ^ Dora B. Weiner and Michael J. Sauter, "The City of Paris and the Rise of Clinical Medicine," Osiris (2003) 18#1 pp 23-42
  3. ^ Jean-Antoine ChaptalCatholic Encyclopedia article


  • Paul, Harry W. (2002) "Chapter 5: Jean-Antoine Chaptal" Science, Vine and Wine in Modern France Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 123–154, ISBN 0-521-52521-7

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

  • "[J.A. Chaptal (1756–1832). Benefactor of l'Ecole spéciale de pharmacie of Montpellier]". Revue D'histoire De La Pharmacie (in French) 54 (351): 321–30. November 2006. doi:10.3406/pharm.2006.6020. PMID 17569190. 
  • Gough JB (January 1998). "Winecraft and chemistry in 18th-century France: Chaptal and the invention of Chaptalization". Technology and Culture (Society for the History of Technology) 39 (1): 74–104. doi:10.2307/3107004. JSTOR 3107004. PMID 11619808. 
  • "JEAN-ANTOINE CHAPTAL". The Medical Journal of Australia 44 (12): 394–5. March 1957. PMID 13430024. 
  • Vallery-Radot P (December 1956). "[A precursor and great minister: Chaptal (1756–1832).]". La Presse Médicale (in French) 64 (95): 2253–4. PMID 13419988. 
Preceded by
Lucien Bonaparte
Minister of the Interior
Succeeded by
Jean-Baptiste Nompère de Champagny