Paris: Chez Crochard, 1814. 1st Edition. FIRST EDITION, FIRST PRINTING OF GAY-LUSSAC’S CLASSIC PAPER ON IODINE. Two volumes bound as one. The Dictionary of Scientific Biography notes this as one of Gay-Lussac's most important papers (DSB Noted in DSB, 5, 327). In the late nineteenth century the chemist Wilhelm Ostwald, winner of the 1909 Nobel Prize, selected Gay-Lussac’s paper as “one of the first and one of the best monographs of all time on a single element and its most important compounds and as such it has served as a model for many later pieces of research” (Crosland, Gay-Lussac: Scientist and Bourgeois, 85).
Louis Joseph Gay-Lussac (1778-1850) was a French chemist and physicist with a well-known rivalry with Humphry Davy. While J. C. Courtois discovered iodine in 1811— and while he recognized iodine to be a distinctive substance from its purple vapor — he confused its compound with hydrogen as that of hydrogen chloride. Gay-Lussac and Davy were asked to further explore the issue, however they carried out their research virtually simultaneously, making it somewhat difficult to assign priority. Davy’s claim for the originality of his study of iodine depends upon his argument of knowledge prior to that of Gay-Lussac. While the publication history is confusing, history credits Gay-Lussac (DSB, Vol. 5, p. 322).
“In 1814 Davy did some further research on iodine, but… in prolonged and detailed research he was outshone by Gay-Lussac, who presented a full study of the new element in a major memoir read to the Institute on 1 August 1814” (Crosland). Davy’s work had been somewhat hurried and incomplete while Gay-Lussac’s was anything but. When published [this paper], at 155 pages, filled an entire issue of the Annales de chime” (Crosland).
Gay-Lussac’s work in this paper was exceptionally detailed and he “deserves full credit for his detailed study of hydrogen iodine, which he found to have a 50 percent hydrogen content by volume. He contrasted its thermal decomposition with the stability of hydrogen chloride. By the action of chlorine on iodine, he prepared… iodine monochloride and trichlorise. After further careful study of the properties of iodine, he prepared and examined a number of iodides and iodates. He prepared for the first time ethyl iodide by distilling together concentrated hydriodic acid with absolute alcohol” (DSB Vol. 5 p. 322).
In this paper, his most important on the subject, Gay-Lussac settled Courtois’s confusion, proving that the new substance was an element analogous of chlorine and it was Gay-Lussac who gave iodine the name iode (from the Greek ioeides, "violet colored". In a curious side-note, some even saw Gay-Lussac’s paper as wondrous, including the “normally restrained German edition L. W. Gilbert, [who suggested] that the memoir transports the reader into a sort of fairyland… In order to understand Gilbert’s remarks, the 20th century reader would have to forget his modern sophistication and try to recapture the childlike wonder which might be engendered on first seeing the black crystals of iodine transformed by heat into a beautiful violet vapor with no equal among contemporary dyestuffs” (ibid).
ALSO INCLUDED is the first publication of a paper read to the Institute of France in 1804 by the French chemist Armand Séguin. In it, Séguin details his study of opium, of the greatest import being his “technique for obtaining another substance from opium” (Robinette, 378). Séguin “did not know it, but he was on the trail of one of the most far-reaching medical discoveries of all time” — morphine (Booth, Opium, 68). Séguin’s discovery was not published for a decade [until the paper offered here], by which time the chemist was in disgrace for embezzling drug supplies from the French army, and his work was dismissed. In his speech and paper, Séguin “reported finding ‘a very peculiar vegetable-animal material’” (Robinette). Though the timing in muddled as by the time of publication other researchers had made similar discoveries, writing in 1832, Pelletier argued strongly for Séguin’s preeminence; that Séguin’s “vegetable-animal material” was in fact the discovery of morphine: ‘M. Séguin signaled the existence of the most energetic principle of opium, described the means of obtaining it, and indicated its essential and distinctive characteristics, so that he only lacked the naming of it ‘morphine’ in order to be in possession of the honor of its discovery’” (ibid). Item #753
CONDITION & DETAILS: Paris: Chez Crochard. Volumes 91 and 92, bound as one. Ex-libris with NO spine markings and minimal interior markings (small stamp on title page, occassional text page, blank front flyleaf). 8vo. 8.25 x 5.5 inches (206 x 137mm). 1 plate. Tightly and very solidly bound in maroon cloth with a gilt-lettered spine; minor scuffing to the edge tips. Moderate foxing throughout, largely minor. title page is not detached but is loosening. Withal, very good condition.