Peter Woulfe

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Peter Woulfe
Wolf flask with tubulures, 19th-20th century - Museu da Ciência da Universidade de Coimbra - University of Coimbra - Coimbra, Portugal - DSC09117.jpg
AwardsCopley Medal (1768)
Scientific career

Peter Woulfe (1727–1803) was an Irish chemist and mineralogist. He first had the idea that wolframite might contain a previously undiscovered element (tungsten).[1][2]

In 1771, Woulfe reported the formation of a yellow dye when indigo was treated with nitric acid.[3] Later it was discovered by others that he had formed picric acid, which eventually was used as the first synthetic dye, an explosive and an antiseptic treatment for burns.

Woulfe is credited with inventing, ca. 1767, the Woulfe Bottle, an apparatus for purifying or dissolving gases, which employed a bottle with two or three necks.[4]


Woulfe has been described as being as much an alchemist and mystic as a scientist. As recorded by John Timbs:[5]

"The last true believer in alchemy was not Dr. Price, but Peter Woulfe, the eminent chemist, and Fellow of the Royal Society, and who made experiments to show the nature of mosaic gold [ tin(IV) sulfide, SnS2]. […] He had long vainly searched for the Elixir, and attributed his repeated failures to the want of due preparation by pious and charitable acts. I understand that some of his apparatus is still extant, upon which are supplications for success and for the welfare of the adepts."


  • Timbs, John (1866). English Eccentrics and Eccentricities. vol.1. [S.l.]: Chatto & Windus. OCLC 500018598.
  • "Woulfe, Peter" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. OCLC 11414779


  1. ^ Woulfe, Peter (1779). "Experiments on some mineral substances". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. 69: 11–34. doi:10.1098/rstl.1779.0004. On pages 29–34, Woulfe analyzed a sample of a mineral from Joachimsthal (now: Jáchymov, Czech Republic) (see p. 30). On p. 31, Woulfe stated that the mineral contained "a new earth", and on pp. 32 and 34, he stated that it contained "some other earth".
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  5. ^ Timbs, John (1866). English Eccentrics and Eccentricities. vol. 1. London, England: Richard Bentley. pp. 136–137.

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