Frederick Ferdinand Henri Moissan was a Noble Laureate and a French chemist. He was born into a poor household in the mid-nineteenth century and developed an early interest in chemistry. Unfortunately, he neglected all other subjects as a result. As a result, he had to leave school without a ‘grade Universitaire,’ which prevented him from enrolling in any university. After that, he began studying under renowned chemists such as Edmond Frémy and Pierre Paul Dehérain. Dehérain was ultimately the one who persuaded him to take the baccalauréat and continue his formal studies. Moissan eventually passed the exam and completed his doctoral thesis under Dehérain’s supervision. Despite the fact that his first published work focused on carbon dioxide and oxygen metabolism in plants, he eventually moved on to inorganic chemistry and began studying fluorine. After several failed attempts, he was finally successful in isolating fluorine, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1906. He did not, however, stop there; instead, he continued his research with his pupils and found a number of chemicals. Later on, he invented an arc furnace, which was later named after him. He was a superb teacher and had many distinguished students in addition to being a diligent and patient experimentalist.
Childhood and Adolescence
Frederick Ferdinand Henri Moissan was born on September 28, 1852, in Paris, to a family of Sephardic Jews from the southwest of France. His father, Francis Ferdinand Moissan, was a seamstress and his mother, Joséphine Améraldine (née Mitel), was a subordinate officer in the Eastern Railway Company.
The family moved to Meaux in 1864, when Henri was twelve years old. He was influenced by a fantastic chemistry teacher here at Collège de Meaux. Henri was immersed in the magical realm of chemistry by his teacher. Henri became so absorbed in the subject that he didn’t study anything else.
As a result, he had to quit school in 1870 without obtaining the requisite qualifications for university admission. As a result, he started working as an apprentice pharmacist in Paris. He just rescued a man who was suffering from arsenic poisoning. He wanted to study chemistry now that he was older.
He could not, however, get into any recognized university without the appropriate qualifications. As a result, he joined the laboratory of Edmond Frémy at the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle. Here he heard E.H. Sainte-Claire Deville and Jules Henri Debray speak.
Moissan moved to Pierre Paul Dehérain’s laboratory at the École Pratique des Hautes Études the next year. Moissan may have joined Dehérain on Frémy’s recommendation because Dehérain was one of Frémy’s students. He has always supported himself through teaching.
Dehérain recommended that Moissan pursue an academic education. Moissan passed his baccalauréat, a requirement for university admission, four years after graduating from high school. In the same year, he co-authored an article on carbon dioxide and oxygen metabolism in plants alongside Dehérain.
Moissan’s interest in inorganic chemistry shifted quickly, and he began research on pyrophoric iron. Henri Etienne Sainte-Claire Deville and Jules Henri Debray, the two foremost inorganic chemists at the time, praised his research on this issue.
Moissan was hired at the School of Pharmacy in Paris after the paper was published. He took over a consumer analysis laboratory to supplement his income because his salary was low. He also experimented with chromic acid in the vacuum.
After his firm failed to take off, he joined Jules Henri Debray and Lois Joseph Troost at the Sorbonne laboratory at the University of Paris. He finally landed a job at the Agronomic Institute in 1879 and received his PhD in 1880. His doctoral dissertation focused on cyanogens.
Henri Moissan’s Career
Moissan has returned to the School of Pharmacy as an assistant lecturer and a senior demonstrator. Initially, he focused on chromous salts, but by 1884, he had shifted his focus to fluorine chemistry. He created a few organic and phosphorus compounds of the element the same year.
Moissan found in 1885 that when potassium difluoride is dissolved in liquid hydrogen fluoride at a specific concentration, the mixture remains liquid. He also discovered that the solution could be electrolyzed at subzero temperatures.
He attempted to electrolyze the solution at a greater temperature previously. The platinum equipment he was using was damaged. So he attempted to repeat the experiment at –50°C. He finally electrolyzed the solution and separated fluorine on June 26, 1886.
In 1886, he was elevated to Professor of Toxicology as well. He continued his fluorine study and discovered numerous new compounds with his pupils, including bromine trifluoride, oxygen difluoride, and selenium tetrafluoride. Along with his PhD student Paul Marie Alfred Lebeau, he discovered sulfur hexafluoride in 1901.
Meanwhile, he was appointed to the Chair of Inorganic Chemistry in 1889. Moissan’s focus switched to a new subject in 1892. He currently believes that synthetic diamonds might be created by crystallizing a less expensive form of carbon like charcoal under the pressure of molten iron.
He then set out to verify it through experimentation. He invented an electric arc furnace in 1892 that could reach temperatures of 3,500°C. He eventually produced a few little stones, but whether or not they were diamonds is still up for debate.
Later, he experimented with different chemicals in the furnace, discovering several new compounds like as carbides and borides. While studying rock fragments from the Canyon Diablo meteorite in 1893, Moissan identified silicon carbide. He then used numerous methods to produce the mineral.
Moissan was appointed to the position of Assessor to the Director of the School of Pharmacy in 1900. He was promoted to Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Paris later that year.
Moissan was appointed to the Commission on Isotopic Abundances and Atomic Weights in 1903, which was established in 1899 to compile the Table of Standard Atomic Weights and to analyze the scientific literature. He worked for the company until his death in 1907.
Henri’s Major Projects
One of Moissan’s most noteworthy works is the electrolysis of a solution of potassium hydrogen difluoride and liquid hydrogen fluoride to isolate fluorine. The fluorine was isolated at the positive electrode while the hydrogen created by the reaction accumulated at the negative electrode. This method of fluorine isolation is still used today.
Moissan was also a prolific author, with over a hundred works to his name. Some of his more notable publications include ‘Le Four Électrique’ (The Electric-Arc Furnace), published in 1897, ‘Le Fluor et ses Composé’ (Fluorine and Its Compounds), published in 1900, and ‘Traité de Chimie Minerale’ (Treatise on Inorganic Chemistry), published in five volumes from 1904 to 1906.
Achievements and Awards
Moissan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1906. The prize was given “in honor of the tremendous achievements offered by him in his discovery and isolation of the element fluorine, and for the adoption in the service of the science of the electric furnace named after him,” according to the Swedish Academy.
In addition, the Royal Society of London gave him the Davy Medal in 1896, the Prix Lacaze in 1897, the Franklin Institute’s Elliot Cresson Medal in 1898, and the German Chemical Society’s August Wilhelm von Hofmann Gold Medal in 1903.
In addition, Moissan was elected to the Académie de Médecine in 1888, the Académie des Sciences in 1891, the Conseil d’Hygiène de la Seine in 1895, and the Comité Consultatif des Arts et Manufactures in 1898.
Moissan was appointed a Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur by the French government sometime in the early twentieth century. He was also given the Royal Society of London and Chemical Society Fellowships (London).
Personal History and Legacy
Moissan married Marie Léonie Lugan in 1882. Moissan’s first employment was with a pharmacy, and she was the pharmacist’s daughter. He was fortunate in that the union solved many of his financial concerns, allowing him to focus more on his career. In 1885, the couple had a son.
Moissan died on February 20, 1907, just after returning from Stockholm to accept his Nobel Prize. It was an unexpected fatality, maybe due to an acute attack of appendicitis.
Henri Moissan is the name given to Moissanite, a naturally occurring silicon carbide that is used as a diamond substitute. In 1893, he identified this unusual mineral in rock samples from a meteoroid recovered in Arizona, USA.
Estimated Net worth
Henri is one of the wealthiest and most well-known chemists. Henri Moissan’s net worth is estimated to be $5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.