Jean Louis Lassaigne

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Jean Louis Lassaigne
Born 22 September 1800
Died 18 March 1859 (1859-03-19) (aged 58)
Nationality France
Known for sodium fusion test
Scientific career
Fields chemistry

Jean Louis Lassaigne (22 September 1800 – 18 March 1859) was a French chemist. He is best known for the sodium fusion test named after him.

Early life[edit]

Lassaigne was born in Paris. Initially he worked in the laboratory of Louis Nicolas Vauquelin, and in 1828 was named professor of chemistry and physics at the École Royale Vétérinaire d’Alfort (Royal School of Veterinary) in Maisons-Alfort. He filled this role until 1854.

Contributions and major works[edit]

In 1825 Lassaigne partnered with François Leuret to publish "Recherches physiques et chimiques pour servir à l’historie de la digestion" (Physical and chemical research for understanding digestion). Four years later Lassaigne wrote an investigation about chemistry as part of medical sciences "Abrégé élémentaire de chimie considérée comme science accessoire à l'étude de la médecine, de la pharmacie et de l'histoire naturelle" (Elementary summary of chemistry considered as an ancillary science to the study of medicine, pharmacy and natural history), at the same time he was admitted as member to prestigious "Société de Chimie Médicale" (Medical Chemistry Society) in Paris.

He became a chemical researcher, where he did research related to pure chemistry, inorganic chemistry, industrial chemistry, animal chemistry, and forensic chemistry, which led to many discoveries. His major works were studies about phosphoric ether, pyrocitric acid, pyro acids of the malic acid, chromium salts, and compounds of iodine. Lassaigne also did research on processes for the carbonization of organic matter.

Lassaigne discovered new alkaloids and made major investigations related to toxicology of phosphorus and hydrocyanic acid. He also discovered new dyes, and in 1831 won an award by "Société d'Encouragement de l'Industrie" (Society for Encouragement of Industry) for his work on the process of enamel elaboration for pottery.

In 1843, Lassaigne presented a procedure for detecting the presence of nitrogen in organic compounds by heating them with molten potassium.[1][2] This procedure was later extended to the detection of sulfur and halogens in organic compounds.[3][4][5]


  1. ^ Lassaigne (1843) "Mémoire sur un procédé simple pour constater la présence de l'azote dans des quantités minimes de matière organique" [Memoir on a simple procedure for confirming the presence of nitrogen in minimal quantities of organic matter], Comptes rendus, 16 : 387-391.
  2. ^ Oscar Jacobsen of Rostock, Germany was the first investigator to use sodium instead of potassium in Lassaigne's procedure. See:
    • Jacobsen, Oscar (1879) "Ueber die Oxydation der Parasulfamintoluylsäure" (On the oxidation of 3-methyl-4-sulfamoyl-benzoic acid), Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 12 : 2316–2320 ; see p. 2318. From p. 2318: "Ein Körnchen der Substanz wird mit mindestens dem vier- bis fünffachen Volumen Eisenpulver gemischt und dieses Gemisch ganz wie nach dem Lassaigne'schen Verfahren mit Kalium oder Natrium zusammengeschmolzen." (A granule of the substance is mixed with at least a four- to five-fold volume of iron powder and this mixture is heated with potassium or sodium [until the latter melts], just as in Lassaigne's procedure.)
    • Fresenius, W. and Jander, G., ed.s, Handbuch der Analytischen Chemie, Part II, vol.s IVb, Va,b "Elemente der vierten Nebengruppe und der fünften Gruppe" [Elements of the fourth subgroup and of the fifth group (i.e., column of the periodic table)] (Berlin, Germany: Springer, 1956), p. 147. From p. 147: "Lassaigne benutzte für die Destruktion Kalium. Auch Natrium kann man verwenden, was wohl zuerst Jacobsen getan hat." (Lassaigne used potassium for the decomposition. Also one can use sodium, which probably Jacobsen first did.)
  3. ^ Vohl, H. (1863) "Ueber den Schwefelgehalt verschiedener ätherischer Beleuchtungsmaterialien" [On the sulfur content of various volatile illuminating substances], Dinglers polytechnisches Journal, 168 : 49–51.
  4. ^ Wilson, Cecil L. (1938) "Micro-tests for elements in organic compounds," Analyst, 63 : 332–335.
  5. ^ Gower, R. P.; Rhodes, I. P. (1969). "A review of techniques in the Lassaigne sodium-fusion". Journal of Chemical Education. 46 (9): 606. Bibcode:1969JChEd..46..606G. doi:10.1021/ed046p606. 

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