- Justus von Liebig
name = Justus von Liebig
image_width = 300px
caption = Justus von Liebig-chemist
birth_date = birth date|1803|5|12|df=y
Darmstadt, Grand Duchy of Hesse
death_date = death date and age|1873|4|18|1803|5|12
Munich, German Empire
Grand Duchy of Hesse, then German Empire
nationality = Hessian, then German
University of Giessen
University of Munich
University of Bonn
University of Erlangen
Karl Wilhelm Gottlob Kastner
doctoral_students = Carl Schmidt,
Carl von Voit, Hermann von Fehling, Hermann Franz Moritz Kopp,
August von Hofmann,
Emil Erlenmeyer, Moritz Traube,
Adolph Strecker, Wilhelm Henneberg,
Nitrogen Law of the Minimum Liebig condenser
religion = Justus von Liebig (
May 12, 1803– April 18, 1873) was a German chemistwho made major contributions to agricultural and biological chemistry, and worked on the organization of organic chemistry. As a professor, he devised the modern laboratory-oriented teaching method, and for such innovations, he is regarded as one of the greatest chemistry teachers of all time. He is known as the "father of the fertilizerindustry" for his discovery of nitrogenas an essential plant nutrient, and his formulation of the Law of the Minimumwhich described the effect of individual nutrients on crops. He also developed a manufacturing process for beef extract, and founded a company, Liebig Extract of Meat Company, that later trademarked the Oxo brand beef bouillon cube.
Liebig was born in
Darmstadtinto a middle class family. From childhood he was fascinated by chemistry and even was expelled from his grammar schoolfor detonating an explosivedevice he had made at home from chemicals obtained from his father's drysaltery business. [This tale is probably apocryphal--there is no historical evidence that it occurred.] He was apprenticed to the apothecaryGottfried Pirsch (1792-1870) in Heppenheim.
Liebig attended the
University of Bonn, studying under Karl Wilhelm Gottlob Kastner, a business associate of his father. When Kastner moved to the University of Erlangen, Liebig followed him and later took his doctorate from Erlangen. Liebig did not receive the doctorate until well after he had left Erlangen, and the circumstances are clouded by a possible scandal [see Munday (1990)] . Also at Erlangen, Liebig fell in love with the poet August von Platen-Hallermünde(1796-1835) [William H. Brock. Justus von Liebig: The Chemical Gatekeeper. Cambridge University Press, 2002, page 21] who wrote several sonnets dedicated to Liebig. He left Erlangen in March 1822, in part because of his involvement with the radical Korps Rhenania (a nationalist student organization) but also because of his hopes for more advanced chemical studies.
In autumn 1822 Liebig went to study in
Parison a grant obtained for him by Kastner from the Hessian government. He worked in the private laboratoryof Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac, and was also befriended by Alexander von Humboldtand Georges Cuvier(1769-1832).
After leaving Paris, Liebig returned to Darmstadt and married Henriette Moldenhauer, the daughter of a state official. This ended Liebig's relationship with Platen.
In 1824 at the age of 21 and with Humboldt's recommendation, Liebig became a
professorat the University of Giessen. He established the world's first major school of chemistry there. He received an appointment from the King of Bavaria to the University of Munichin 1852, where he remained until his death in 1873 in Munich. He became Freiherr(baron) in 1845.
He founded and edited from 1832 the journal "
Annalen der Chemie", which became the leading German-language journal of Chemistry. The volumes from his lifetime are often referenced just as "Liebigs Annalen"; and following his death the title was officially changed to "Justus Liebigs Annalen der Chemie".
Research and development
Liebig improved organic analysis with the "
Kaliapparat" -- a five-bulb device that used a potassium hydroxide solution to remove the organic combustion product carbon dioxide. [cite journal | author = Liebig, J. | title = Ueber einen neuen Apparat zur Analyse organischer Körper, und über die Zusammensetzung einiger organischen Substanzen | journal = Annalen der Physik | year = 1831 | volume = 21 | pages = 1 – 47] He downplayed the role of humusin plant nutritionand discovered that plants feed on nitrogencompounds and carbon dioxidederived from the air, as well as on minerals in the soil. One of his most recognized and far-reaching accomplishments was the invention of nitrogen-based fertilizer. Liebig believed that nitrogen must be supplied to plant roots in the form of ammonia. Though a practical and commercial failure, his invention of fertilizer recognized the possibility of substituting chemical fertilizers for "natural" (animal dung, etc.) ones. He also formulated the Law of the Minimum, stating that a plant's development is limited by the one essential mineral that is in the relatively shortest supply, visualized as "Liebig's barrel". This concept is a qualitative version of the principles used to determine the application of fertilizer in modern agriculture.
He was also one of the first chemists to organize a laboratory as we know it today. His novel method of organic analysis made it possible for him to direct the analytical work of many graduate students. The vapor condensation device he popularized for his research is still known as a
Liebig condenser, although it was in common use long before Liebig's research began. Liebig's students were from many of the German states as well as Britain and the United States, and they helped create an international reputation for their "Doktorvater."
In 1835 he invented a process for
silveringthat greatly improved the utility of mirrors.
Liebig's work on applying chemistry to plant and animal physiology was especially influential. At a time when many chemists such as
Jöns Jakob Berzeliusinsisted on a hard and fast separation between the organic and inorganic, Liebig argued that "...the production of all organic substances no longer belongs just to the organism. It must be viewed as not only probable but as certain that we shall produce them in our laboratories. Sugar, salicin [aspirin] , and morphine will be artificially produced." [Liebig and Woehler (1838)]
Liebig's arguments against any chemical distinction between living (physiological) and dead chemical processes proved a great inspiration to several of his students and others who were interested in materialism. Though Liebig distanced himself from the direct political implications of materialism, he tacitly supported the work of Karl Vogt (1817-1895), Jacob Moleschott (1822-1893), and Ludwig Buechner (1824-1899).
Liebig played a more direct role in reforming politics in the German states through his promotion of science-based agriculture and the publication of
John Stuart Mill's "Logic." Through Liebig's close friendship with the Vieweg family publishing house, he arranged for his former student Jacob Schiel (1813-1889) to translate Mill's important work for German publication. Liebig liked Mill's "Logic" in part because it promoted science as a means to social and political progress, but also because Mill featured several examples of Liebig's research as an ideal for the scientific method.Liebig is also credited with the notion that " searingmeat seals in the juices." [cite book | author=McGee, Harold | title=On Food and Cooking (Revised Edition) | publisher=Scribner | year=2004 | id=ISBN 0-684-80001-2 Page 161, "The Searing Question".] This idea, still widely believed, is not true.
Working with Belgian
engineer George Giebert, Liebig devised an efficient method of producing beef extract from carcasses. In 1865, they founded the Liebig Extract of Meat Company, marketing the extract as a cheap, nutritious alternative to real meat. Some years after Liebig's death, in 1899, the product was trademarked "Oxo".
World War II, the University of Giessenwas officially renamed after him, "Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen". In 1953 the West German post office issued a stamp in his honor. [Germany #695, " Scott catalogue"]
* [http://books.google.com/books?id=p-IMAAAAYAAJ&dq=Organic+Chemistry+in+its+Application+to+Agriculture+and+Physiology Organic Chemistry in its Application to Agriculture and Physiology] (1840)
* [http://books.google.com/books?id=90AQAAAAYAAJ&dq=Organic+Chemistry+in+its+Application+to+Physiology+and+Pathology Organic Chemistry in its Application to Physiology and Pathology] (1842)
*"Familiar Letters on Chemistry" (1843)
History of Soil Science
List of chemists
*William H. Brock, [http://www.amazon.com/dp/0521524733/ Justus von Liebig: The Chemical Gatekeeper] (Cambridge University Press, 1997). See also [http://www.scs.uiuc.edu/~mainzv/HIST/awards/Dexter%20Papers/BrockDexterBioJJB.pdf William H. Brock] .
title=Justus Liebig and animal chemistry.
title=Liebig, his university professor Karl Wilhelm Gottlob Kastner (1783-1857) and his problematic relation with romantic natural philosophy.
title=Justus von Liebig and his influence on clinical chemistry.
title=Philipp Lorenz Geiger and Justus Liebig.
title=Johannes Müller and Justus Liebig on nutrition.
title=Religion and science in the thought of Liebig.
title=The Liebig-Mulder controversy. On the methodology of physiological chemistry.
periodical=Janus; revue internationale de l'histoire des sciences, de la médecine, de la pharmacie, et de la technique
title=Liebig on Francis Bacon and the utility of science.
periodical=Annals of science
publication-date=1973 Jun 3
title= [Justus Liebig]
publication-date=1963 Aug 11
publication-date=1954 Jun 11
title=Justus von Liebig, founder of physiological chemistry.
periodical=Wien. Klin. Wochenschr.
title=To Justus von Liebig on his 150th birthday, 12 May 1953
title=Justus von Liebig and the Archiv der Pharmazie; in memory of Liebig's birthday, 12 May 1803
periodical=Archiv der Pharmazie und Berichte der Deutschen Pharmazeutischen Gesellschaft
title = Zur Hundertsten Wiederkehr: Justus von Liebig nach dem Leben gezeichnet
author = G. F. Knapp
journal = Berichte der deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft
volume = 36
issue = 2
pages = 1315 – 1330
year = 1903
doi = 10.1002/cber.19030360202
title = Nekrolog: Justus von Liebig. Eigenhändige biographische Aufzeichnungen
author = Georg Freiherr von Liebig
Berichte der deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft
volume = 23
issue = 3
pages = 817 – 828
year = 1890
doi = 10.1002/cber.18900230391
title = Zur Erinnerung an Justus von Liebig
Journal für Praktische Chemie
volume = 8
issue = 1
pages = 428 – 458
year = 1873
doi = 10.1002/prac.18740080148
* [http://librivox.org/familiar-letters-on-chemistry-by-justus-liebig/ Familiar Letters on Chemistry] at librivox.org
*Gutenberg author|id=Justus_Freiherr_von_Liebig|name=Justus von Liebig
NAME= Liebig, Justus von
DATE OF BIRTH= birth date|1803|5|12|df=y
PLACE OF BIRTH=
DATE OF DEATH= death date|1873|4|18|df=y
PLACE OF DEATH=
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.