Torbern Bergman

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Torbern Bergman
Torbern Olof Bergman.jpg
Torbern Olaf Bergman (1735–1784)
Born Torbern Olaf Bergman
(1735-03-20)20 March 1735
Katrineberg, Låstad parish, Sweden
Died 8 July 1784(1784-07-08) (aged 49)
Medevi, Sweden
Residence Sweden
Nationality Swedish
Alma mater University of Uppsala
Known for Chemical affinity tables
Spouse(s) Margareta Catharina Trast
Scientific career
Fields Chemist and mineralogist
Institutions University of Uppsala
Doctoral advisor Bengt Ferrner
Doctoral students Johann Afzelius
Influences Carl von Linné

Torbern Olaf (Olof) Bergman (KVO) (20 March 1735 – 8 July 1784) was a Swedish chemist and mineralogist noted for his 1775 Dissertation on Elective Attractions, containing the largest chemical affinity tables ever published. Bergman was the first chemist to use the A, B, C, etc., system of notation for chemical species.

Early life and education[edit]

Torbern was born on 20 March 1735, the son of Barthold Bergman and Sara Hägg. He enrolled at the University of Uppsala at age 17. His father wished him to read either law or divinity, while he himself was anxious to study mathematics and natural science; in the effort to please both himself and his father, he overworked himself and harmed his health. During a period of enforced abstinence from study, he amused himself with field botany and entomology. He was able to send Linnaeus specimens of several new kinds of insects, and in 1756 he succeeded in proving that, contrary to the opinion of that naturalist, the so-called Coccus aquaticus was really the ovum of a kind of leech. He returned to the university in 1758, and received his PhD in that year.


Bergman lectured at the university on physics and mathematics. Upon the resignation of the celebrated Wallerius, Bergman was a candidate for the professorship of chemistry and mineralogy. His competitors charged him with ignorance of the subject, because he had never written on it. To refute them, he shut himself up for some time in a laboratory, and prepared a treatise on the manufacture of alum, which became a standard work. He was appointed a professor of chemistry, and remained at this position for the rest of his life.

Bergman greatly contributed to the advancement of quantitative analysis, and he developed a mineral classification scheme based on chemical characteristics and appearance. He is noted for his research on the chemistry of metals, especially bismuth and nickel.

In 1764, Bergman was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. In April 1765 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.[1]

In 1771, four years after Joseph Priestley first created artificially carbonated water, Bergman invented a process to make carbonated water from chalk by the action of sulphuric acid. Finally he is noted for his sponsorship of Carl Wilhelm Scheele, whom some deem to be Torbern's "greatest discovery".

Personal life[edit]

In 1771, Bergman married Margareta Catharina Trast.


In Bergman's honour, the uranium mineral Torbernite and the lunar crater Bergman both bear his name.



  1. ^ "Library and Archive Catalog". Royal Society. Retrieved 143 December 2010.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)


Further reading[edit]

  • Mostrom, Birgitta. (1957). Torbern Bergman: a bibliography of his works. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell. Includes over 300 items, including translations printed up to 1956.
  • Schufle, J.A. (1985). Torbern Bergman : a man before his time. Lawrence, Kan.: Coronado Press.
  • Smeaton, W.A. (1970). "Bergman, Torbern Olaf". Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 2. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. ISBN 0-684-10114-9. 
  • Johannes Uray, Chemische Theorie und mineralogische Klassifikationssysteme von der chemischen Revolution bis zur Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts. In: Berhard Hubmann, Elmar Schübl, Johannes Seidl (eds.), Die Anfänge geologischer Forschung in Österreich. Beiträge zur Tagung „10 Jahre Arbeitsgruppe Geschichte der Erdwissenschaften Österreichs“ von 24. bis 26. April 2009 in Graz. Graz 2010, S 107–125.

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