Famous Scientists

Robert Bunsen

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Robert Bunsen

Robert Bunsen (In full: Robert Wilhelm Eberhard Bunsen) was an eminent German chemist. Bunsen, along with his fellow scientist, Gustav Kirchhoff, is credited with the breakthrough discovery (1859) that each element emits a light of characteristic wavelength. The event caused a revolution in the field of spectrum analysis, and later led to the discovery of two alkali-group metals, namely cesium and rubidium. He is also noted for developing the famous Bunsen burner, with the help of his assistant, Peter Desaga.

Early Life and Education:

Born at Göttingen, Germany in 1811, Robert Bunsen’s father taught modern philology at the University of Göttingen. He earned a Ph.D. in chemistry at the same university in 1830, and himself became a successful professor at the Universities of Marburg, Breslau and Heidelberg.

Contributions and Achievements:

Robert Bunsen’s research on the highly toxic arsenic-containing compound cacodyl in 1837 was one of his first acclaimed works. He extensively studied emission spectra of heated elements, with Gustav Kirchhoff, which helped them discover caesium in 1860, and rubidium in 1861. As one of the early pioneers of photochemistry and organoarsenic chemistry, Bunsen formulated various gas-analytical methods. He built the Bunsen burner with his laboratory assistant, Peter Desaga, in 1855; an invention which greatly bettered the form of laboratory burners.

Bunsen is also credited with the 1841 invention of the carbon-zinc electric cell, as well as the grease-spot photometer in 1844, which measured the light produced by the cell. He obtained magnesium in the metallic state for the first time and analyzed its physical and chemical properties. A few other inventions by Bunsen include the filter pump in 1868, the ice calorimeter in 1870, and the vapour calorimeter in 1887.

Later Life and Death:

Robert Bunsen died in Heidelberg, south-west Germany on August 16, 1899. He was 88 years old.

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