William Christopher Zeise

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Slagelse, Denmark
Birth Sign
Slagelse, Denmark

William Christopher Zeise was a well-known Danish organic chemist who is credited with creating the first synthetic organometallic compound, which he called’sal kalicoplatinicus inflammabilis.’ Zeise’s salt is the name given to the salt that bears his name today. Zeise developed an interest in natural science while in secondary school, thanks to his pharmacist father. He relocated to Copenhagen, where he worked as a pharmacy assistant at the Royal Court Pharmacy under Gottfried Becker. He was forced to return to his homeland due to his failing health, but only for a short time. Zeise returned to the University of Copenhagen with a renewed enthusiasm for chemistry. He didn’t just want to be a court apothecary. Zeise conducted extensive research after completing his doctoral thesis. In 1823, his research into organic sulfur compounds resulted in the discovery of a new class of organic compounds known as xanthates, which were isolated as yellow potassium salts. He also discovered thioalcohols, also known as mercaptan, and sulfides, also known as thioethers. For his scientific discoveries and investigations, the Danish monarch awarded Zeise the Knight of the Order of the Dannebrog.

Childhood and Adolescence

Frederick Zeise and Johanna Helena Hammond had a son named William Christopher Zeise, who was born on October 15, 1789, in Slagelse, Denmark. His father worked as an apothecary and was a friend of physicist Hans Christian rsted.

The Slagelse Latin School was where Zeise received his early education. In 1805, he moved to Copenhagen, where he worked as a pharmacy assistant at the Royal Court Pharmacy under Gottfried Becker. Due to his frail health, the apprenticeship did not last long, and he returned home after a few months.

He became interested in natural philosophy after returning home from Copenhagen. He read scientific papers to pass the time. He read Antoine Lavosier’s quantitative chemical theory, Gren’s Chemistry, Adam Hauch’s Principles of Natural Philosophy, and rsted’s papers in Scandinavian Literature and Letters to refresh his memory.

In 1806, he reorganized his father’s pharmacy according to the antiphlogistic nomenclature imposed by the new pharmacopoeia of 1805. Zeise made the decision to return to Copenhagen to pursue his long-held ambition of studying chemistry and making a significant contribution to the field.

He moved to Copenhagen in the autumn of 1806, staying at rsted’s family home. He worked as a personal assistant to rsted, assisting him in the preparation of university lectures. rsted had a profound influence on Zeise’s mind. The partnership with rsted lasted several years before Zeise decided to take the university entrance exam.

He enrolled as a university student in 1809. He intended to study medicine at first, but soon realized that his interests were more scientific in nature. He studied medicine, physics, and chemistry as a result.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy in 1815. He received his master’s degree the following year. His doctoral thesis on ‘the effect of alkalies upon organic substances’ was submitted in 1817.

Career of William

Following his doctorate, William Christopher Zeise moved abroad because the University of Copenhagen lacked a chemistry lectureship and a scientific laboratory dedicated to the subject. Zeise arrived in Gottingen after obtaining some funds. He spent the first four months of his career doing research at Friedrich Stromeyer’s lab.

Following a brief stay in Gottingen, he relocated to Paris, where he remained for a year. In Paris, he made friends with Jöns Jacob Berzelius, a well-known Swedish chemist. Surprisingly, the two got along swimmingly. Berzelius held Zeise in high regard and praised his doctoral thesis.

In the autumn of 1819, he returned to Copenhagen after his time abroad. Things at the university had remained unchanged until then. Despite the fact that he was Denmark’s only trained chemist, he had little hope of getting a job.

He collaborated with rsted, and the two of them furthered his scientific work with the help of public funds. Zeise turned the kitchen of the Norregade apartment that the university had rented for use as a physics workshop into his own little laboratory, which he named Royal Science Laboratory. In the first year, he trained ten students.

He was made an extraordinary Professor of Chemistry in 1822. The following year, Zeise discovered a new family of sulfur-containing compounds in his small but well-equipped laboratory. Due to the predominantly yellow color of xanthate salts, he named them xanthates (xanthus in Greek means yellow). Because of this discovery, xanthate salts are now widely used in synthetic chemistry.

In 1824, rsted chose the location that would later become the Danish Polytechnic Education Institution. The land, which was once a farm, has been transformed. A chemical laboratory was housed in the courtyard’s large stable building. In 1829, the college was finally established. The chemical laboratory was expanded and organized with the help of Zeise.

He attempted to react platinum chloride with ethanol in 1830. The reaction produced a series of platinum-based organometallic compounds, one of which he named’sal kalicoplatinicus inflammabilis’ and is now known as Zeise’s salt. The discovery of the salt sparked a debate between Zeise and a German chemist named Justus von Leibiz.

He worked on metals, compounds, and chemicals during the 1830s decade. During this time, he made a number of scientific breakthroughs. He discovered thioalcohols (thiols) in 1832, and dubbed them mercaptans because they formed insoluble mercury salts (corpus mercurium captans). He discovered thioethers the following year.

In Polytechnic Institute, Zeise’s most recent published work showed his attempt to purify the pigment carotene from carrot juice. He discovered that the pigment was soluble in carbon disulphide during his research and correctly identified it as a hydrocarbon.

Major Projects of William

Zeise’s most significant scientific achievement was the creation of Zeise’s salt, the first synthetic organometallic compound. The salt was given his name after it was given the name’sal kalicoplatinicus inflammabilis’.

He did not, however, make this his only scientific breakthrough. Zeise discovered a new class of organic compounds called xanthates, which were isolated as yellow potassium salts as a result of his research into organic sulfur compounds.

He also discovered thioalcohols, also known as mercaptan, and sulfides, also known as thioethers.

Achievements & Awards

Zeise was a member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters (Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters). The Academy awarded him a silver medal.

The Danish monarch bestowed upon him one of the highest honors, Knight of the Order of the Dannebrog, in 1836.

Personal History and Legacy

In February 1842, William Christopher Zeise and Maren Martine Bjerring tied the knot. He was in poor health the entire time. This was most likely due to his handling of noxious chemicals in cramped spaces.

On November 12, 1847, in Copenhagen, Denmark, he passed away. In the first half of the nineteenth century, Zeise was part of a group of organic chemists who laid the groundwork for scientific organic chemistry.

Estimated Net Worth

The net worth of William is unknown.

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