Karl Alois Kneller.

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1 We can get no precise information about the discoverer of the
fundamental law named after Avogadro (f July 9 th 1856). However
an Obituary Notice which appeared in the Gazzetta Piemontese, the
official organ of the Government of Sardinia, nine days after his death,
says he was "religioso senza intolleranza dotto senza pedanteria" etc.
Alfonso Cossa, II conte Amedeo Avogadro di Quaregna, Milano
1898, 5.

12*



ISO V. CHEMISTRY.

century : we merely adduce the names of a few of the
most brilliant workers in this province, and shall pro-
ceed to inquire what they had to say as to the philo-
sophical significance of their discoveries. The witness
of Berzelius, Liebig and Dumas would of itself be
ample; for if these great intellects were unable to discern
any hostility between science and religion, why should
we pay any heed to the clamour of lesser men? We
shall not however confine ourselves to the names cited.
Antoine Laurent Lavoisier does not fall within
the scope of this book, inasmuch as he died under
the guillotine of the Revolution before the beginning
of the I Qth century. We content ourselves with re-
marking that he died in the Christian faith 1 . Dal ton's
religious sincerity was never a matter of doubt 2 . And,
as for B e r z e 1 i u s , his belief in God and his dislike for
atheistical systems find expression in his great treatise.

"An incomprehensible force, foreign to those of dead
matter, has introduced the principle (of life) into the in-
organic world. This has been effected, not by chance, but
with the striking variety and supreme wisdom of a plan
designed to produce definite results, and to maintain an un-
broken succession of transient individuals which are born
one from another, and which at their death bequeath their



1 Ce grand nom de Lavoisier doit etre particulierement rappele
dans notre Societe, car 1'illustre chimiste etait reste un croyant. C'est
ce qui ressort de tous les documents retrouves sur sa vie dans ces
dernieres anees, et particulierement du temoignage, certes non suspect,
de Grimaux , qui avait eu entre les mains beaucoup de papiers de
ce grand homme (M. G. L e m o i n e , Revue des questions scientifi-
ques L 78 79).

2 Chez Dalton le caractere de 1'homme egalait la superiority des
lumieres : il fut un modele de vertus sans ostentation, et de religion
sans fanatisme (Nouv. biographic generate XII, Paris 1866, 830).



A. L. LAVOISIER. J. DALTON. J. BERZELIUS. l8l

decomposed constituents to the formation of new organisms.
Every process of organic nature proclaims a wise purpose,
and bears the stamp of a guiding mind ; and man, comparing
the calculations he makes to attain certain ends with those
which he finds in organic nature, has been led to regard
his faculty of thought and calculation as a reflection of the
Being to whom he owes his existence. And yet it has
happened more than once that a philosophy, proud all the
while of its own profundity, has maintained that all this
was the work of chance, and that such organisms only held
their ground as had accidentally acquired the power of self-
preservation and reproduction. But the advocates of such
systems do not perceive that the element in nature which they
call 'chance' is a thing physically impossible. Everything
that exists springs from a cause, an operative force, this
latter tending (like desire) to break into activity and secure
for itself satisfaction so as to arrive in the end at a state
of untroubled repose, a process which in no degree corre-
sponds to our idea of 'chance'. It will always be more
honourable for man to admire the wisdom, which he cannot
rival, than to puff himself up with philosophical arrogance,
and attempt with his paltry reasonings to penetrate mysteries
which will probably remain for ever beyond the scope of
human reason." l



1 Tout ce qui tient a la nature organique annonce un but sage
et se distingue comme production d'un entendement superieur; et
1'homme, en comparant les calculs qu'il fait, pour atteindre un certain
but, avec ceux qu'il trouve dans la composition de la nature organi-
que, a etc conduit a regarder sa puissance de penser et de calculer
comme une image de cet etre a qui il doit son existence . . . (Traite
de Chimie par J. J. Berzelius, traduit par M. Esslinger, V,
Bruxelles 1833, 2 e partie, Chimie organique, 34). That Berzelius
was "ein Mann von umfassender Bildung und von liebenswlirdigstem
Charakter" is testified e. g. by K. C. v. Leon hard, Aus unserer
Zeit in meinem Leben II, Stuttgart 1856, 130, G. H. Rose, who
has been already quoted, and others. Cf. G. W. A. K a h 1 b a u m,
Monogr. a. d. Gesch. der Chemie VII, Leipzig 1903 (Auto-biographical
Notices of Berzelius).



1 82 V. CHEMISTRY.

Among the most eminent predecessors of Berzelius
are the German Klaproth (f 1817), the discoverer of
uranium, and the French Louis Nicolas Vauquelin
(f 1829) to whom chemistry owes its first knowledge
of chromium and glucinium. Klaproth is characterised
by Von Leonhard, on the authority of his friends, as a
"profoundly religious man" *. Vauquelin died a faith-
ful Catholic, striken down during a visit to his native
place 2 .

There presented himself one day to Vauquelin a
youth, some sixteen years of age, of countrified aspect
and an accent far from Parisian. He came to beg the
chemist to engage him as his servant asking no salary
save to be present at his laboratory experiments. The old
savant was far from rich, and, being loth to add a fresh
burden to the 20 francs a month which he spent on
his laboratory, refused the lad's request. Vauquelin's
sister however interposed ; he was a promising boy, she
said, and would not, like the other assistants, "let the
pots boil over". Vauquelin at last gave way, and the
young peasant not only took excellent care of the "pots",
but grounded himself profoundly in Chemistry, and
came in time to be a famous teacher and discoverer.
In 1804 he succeeded Vauquelin at the College de
France, and in 1810 he was elected to the Academy
of Sciences. He celebrated his election by a visit to
his mother, to whom he brought an edition of Thomas
a Kempis in the large print which her old eyes had



1 Aus unserer Zeit in meinem Leben I, Stuttgart 1854, 595.

2 Etant alle passer quelque temps dans son pays, il a e~te surpris
par la maladie au chateau de M. Duhamel, maire du lieu. II a rendu
hommage a la religion en recourant aux sacrements et aux prieres
de 1'eglise etc. (Ami de la religion et du roi LXII, Paris 1830, 79).



KLAPROTH, L. N. VAUQUELIN. L. J. THENARD. 183

long desired. He rose higher, becoming in 1814 a
Knight, in 1842 Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour,
in 1825 Baron, in 1827 Deputy, and in 1832 a Peer
of France; in 1861 a statue was erected to him at Sens,
and in 1865 the people of his native place La Loup-
tiere asked and obtained permission to call their town
La Louptiere -Thenard in his honour. For the peasant
lad was no other than Louis Jacques Thenard
(f 1857), discoverer of the superoxide of hydrogen, of the
blue dye called after him, and now so widely used in
the manufacture of porcelain, and of many other chemical
facts. He contributed to the progress of Chemistry not
only as a discoverer but also as a teacher, and his
text-book, although of such an immense range, reached
ten editions in six years 1 . He could without any ex-
aggeration boast that during his thirty years at the
Sorbonne, the College of France, and the Polytechnic
School, 40000 students had passed through his hands.
In matters of education he was among the first autho-
rities of his day, a veritable "Marshal of Science" 2 .

Thenard was an unwavering Catholic, loyal and puncti-
lious all through life in the discharge of his religious
duties. Some extracts from the funeral sermon preached
over him by the rector of St. Sulpice may aptly be
quoted 3 :

"Religion and gratitude alike constrain me to say that
there was in Baron Thenard something greater still than
that sublime intellect and boundless knowledge which shed
such lustre on the Academy. There was a heart, profoundly



1 P. M. Flourens, Recueil des eloges historiques III , Paris
1862, 201 248.

2 R. Vallery-Radot, La vie de Pasteur, Paris 1901, 51.

3 Ami de la religion CLXXVI, Paris 1857, 747 f.



184 V. CHEMISTRY.

Christian, armed alike against that disregard of God and
eternity . . . against that vague religiosity which is in essence
a mere chimera,' and against the allurement of fame which,
as he said, had once held him captive but now showed it-
self to his disillusioned mind as a vain and baseless dream. . . .
He submitted his intellect to the dogmas of the Church, as
he submitted his will to her precepts; every Sunday he
came here, a simple unit of the congregation, and on all
our great feasts he reverently communicated. . . . Never did
I make an appeal to him on behalf of the poor and miserable
but he responded, graciously and generously ; many a time,
indeed, he did not wait for my appeal, his delicacy antici-
pated it. ... Never did a Sister of St. Vincent de Paul, a
Sister of Charity knock at his door in vain. . . . Many were
the poor whom he secretly succoured. ... In losing Baron
Thenard, I say once again, I have lost one of the best
friends of my poor."

In a still fuller sense than inorganic, organic chemistry
is a creation of the 19 th century, and owes to it the lucid
and systematic form in which it at present exists. This
is how one of the pioneers describes the colonisation of
this rich province:

"Into this still virgin territory, Liebig and I plunged with
the greatest ardour. ... To travel and preserve communi-
cation across these unexplored tracts we had neither com-
pass nor guides, methods nor laws. We had been led to
form ideas and to fix on doctrines which were absolutely
individual to us, and we defended them with warmth and
passion but without any trace of envy or jealousy. The dis-
coveries, yet to be made, seemed to us inexhaustible, and the
harvest ample for both. The task on which we were both
engaged was the establishment of central stations, the opening
up of roads; and I am sure that Liebig experienced as
much pleasure in reading my writings as I experienced in
reading his."

It was Jean Baptiste Andre Dumas (f 1884)
who, in his old age, spoke thus of the deeds of his



J. B. A. DUMAS. l85

youth 1 . Had he the right to use such language? An
answer may be gather from the somewhat florid exordium
to the memorial speech on Dumas by A. W. Von Hoff-
mann, the famous Berlin chemist 2 .

Having dealt with Dumas' original researches, con-
fined as they were to a single department of science,
he continues:

"We turn however with even greater interest to the study
of the man himself who, from the height to which his
mastery of so vast an area of science elevated him, made
a survey of so many fields of human effort. And if this man,
who had scaled the heights of knowledge, retained in his
heart a warm enthusiasm for the welfare of his countrymen ;
if he did not disdain the business of everyday life, but laid
his time and strength and rich experience at the service
of the common weal, this can but increase our admiration
for him. . . .

"Such was Dumas. . . . Beginning at pharmacy he was
luckily drawn to physiological research, and his work, done
in this department even during his student days, is a model
of accuracy and acuteness. But he soon turned to Chemistry,
enriching it with the discovery of laws of fundamental im-
portance, of wonderful methods of research which to-day
are practised in every laboratory, and opening up paths
which have never been forsaken. For more than thirty
years he was the leader of French Chemistry.

"This multifarious activity in science did not however
prevent him from filling an important r61e in politics and ad-
ministration. Successively deputy in the Legislative Chamber,
Minister of Agriculture and Commerce, Senator, President
of the Municipal Council of Paris, and Master of the Mint,



1 Discours et Eloges Academiques I, Paris 1885, 186 f. The com-
plete absence of envy, of which Dumas speaks, did not prevent him
from entering energetically into a competition with Liebig.

2 A. W. v. Hofmann, Zur Erinnerung an vorangegangene Freunde.
Gesammelte Gedachtnisreden II, Braunschweig 1889, 209 397.



1 86 V. CHEMISTRY.

he served his country in many directions. He was a member
of the Institute, and afterwards Permanent Secretary, he
was also a member of the French Academy, and in these
positions he kept pace for more than half a century with
every development of science, and published a mass of the
most varied and valuable original works such as few of his
contemporaries could rival." i

"The name of Dumas", concludes Von Hoffmann, "is written
imperishably in the annals of science", and for Dumas as
a man, he has praise no less ardent:

"If you review in imagination the whole of his career
you will find in every word and work of the man, whether
in the field of science, in his official positions, or in his
everyday intercourse with the world, tokens of a pure and
noble character. No one could have brought to the service
of his fellows a more enlightened benevolence, a greater
faculty of self-sacrifice; no one could, while conscious of
his own genius, have given readier recognition to the achieve-
ments of others ; no one could have been more scrupulously
fair with tongue and pen towards even his bitterest op-
ponents. It is easy to understand how a man in whom so
fine an intellect was joined with so fine a character, attracted
the respect and confidence of his countrymen, the loyal
affection of his friends, the enthusiastic veneration of his
pupils. These feelings found expression in many forms and
fashions. . . ." 2

A student of Dumas', the great Pasteur, writes:

"I had just come up from the remotest corner of my
province, and I was hearing him for the first time. He was
then 43 years old; I was a student at the ficole Normale,
and we attended his lectures at the Sorbonne. Long before
his arrival the lecture room was full; the galleries were
packed with crowds of students, and late comers were able
to find room nowhere except on the stairs. At the stroke
of the bell he entered and was greeted with a storm of ap-



1 v. Hofmann, Zur Erinnerung etc. 210 211.

2 Ib. 390391-



J. B. A. DUMAS. 187

plattse such a welcome as only youth can give." "The
greatness of his discoveries, his genius for original inter-
pretation and large generalization, in short that combination
of qualities which proclaim a master, justified us in setting
his name, as we did set it, beside that of Lavoisier. It was
the opinion of the pupils of the Sorbonne ; it will be the
verdict of history." l

There is no doubt about the importance of the name ;
what we have to determine here is the attitude towards
religion and philosophy of this great leader of Chemistry
and Physiology, this "first chemist of France" as Von Hoff-
mann calls him. The answer can be given in a very
few words: Dumas was a loyal Catholic 2 . Whether he
possessed the piety of an Ampere we do not know, and
we may well doubt. But he remained loyal to the
faith; and in many public utterances defended Christia-
nity and condemned materialism.

At his reception into the Academy on June I st 1876
he had to deliver a discourse on his predecessor, Guizot.
He said amongst other things:

"Guizot defended Christianity against an intellectual and
militant scepticism; to others of this august body, who will
certainly not fail in their mission, he left it to defend the
personality of the human soul against the rising tide of a
purely naturalistic philosophy. The materialism of Empe-



1 Discourse of 10. December on the Reception of J. Bertrand into
the French Academy (printed in the Bibliographic cath. LXXIII
[1886] 83 84). Cf. Bertrand ib. LXXII (1885) 513, also
J. Bertrand, Eloges academiques, Paris 1890, iff 19 if.

2 M. Dumas etait catholique (it had been given out that he was
a Calvinist). II a rec.u les derniers sacrements en parfaite con-
naissance de cause, et ses funerailles ont ete religieuses (T i s o n in
Revue du monde cath. LXXVIII , Paris 1884, 445. Cf. Cosmos-
les-Mondes, janv.-avr. 1884, 610).



1 88 V. CHEMISTRY.

docles* had, despite the brilliant verse of Lucretius, lost its
beauty under the scrutiny of Christian Ethics; now after
2000 years it returns, and seeks to renew itself by a wholly
fallacious reading of the discoveries of modern science. As
the body comes into being through the transformation of
matter, so, say our new materialists, do life and conscious-
ness arise through the transformation of natural forces. And
as at death the body returns to the earth from which it
sprang, so do life and consciousness fall back into the ocean
of invisible, atomic vibrations which fills and governs the
universe. An entrance into life, devoid of all rights, a life
devoid of goal ; a death devoid of hope this is the philo-
sophy proposed to us. But although a few rare minds may
find peace in it, and may be upheld in their journey through
life by curiosity and the joy of solving difficulties, it will
never content the generality of mankind.

" Advancing through victory and defeat, through triumph
and disappointment, helped on by marvellous virtues and
hampered by great vices, Christian Europe has made current
for sixteen centuries past what was before its advent recognised
in no age and no country, the right of all men to justice,
sympathy, and freedom. That is what Guizot would have
us remember. And assuredly we should not forget it. Under
the new dispensation, right no longer bows before might ; justice
takes all nationalities under its sceptre; fraternal affection
is not limited by the colour of men's skins; freedom raises
to their feet the most oppressed races and castes; the
humblest finds a shield of defence in his divine origin, and
the most powerful recognises that he is answerable before
the eternal tribunal. The religion, the morality, the civili-
sation of Europe rest on this as a foundation, on the right
of all men to justice, sympathy, and freedom. The formula-
tion of this right is the work of Christianity ; those who to-
day exercise it will defend it at any cost, those who are
shut out from it, will by the progress of true political ideas,
one day acquire it. And the passing fever of scientific
thought, which, in the throes of a new birth, assails these
mighty doctrines without being able to find a substitute for
them, will diminish and disappear.



J. B. A. DUMAS. 189

"In a moment of enthusiasm Virgil cried out Virgil
whose mild temper led him to an eclecticism in which all
systems were charitably construed and in part accepted:

Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas . . .

'Happy was he who knew the causes of things, and trod
underfoot the empty terrors of inexorable fate. Happy is
he also who knows the gods.' The poet of the Georgics
does not decide between the materialism of Lucretius and
belief in the gods of Olympus ; he leaves the question in
suspense. To-day science has gone deeper, and knows at
least that she is ignorant of the first cause of things. Nor
does it seem so far that it is part of her mission to reveal
the gods or to weigh the human soul in her clumsy balance,
or that she possesses the power to guarantee to men their
right to justice, sympathy, and freedom." x

Dumas often spoke in this strain. Thus e. g. in his
speech on Berard:

"The immortal, immaterial, free soul of man; the incal-
culable forces of which it disposes ; the organised material
elements which its breath moulds and governs ; the mineral
elements which it absorbs into the bodily fibres; these are
the four chief aspects under which life presents itself to
study, the four great problems set us by death."



1 M. Guizot a defendu le christianisme centre un scepticisme
spirituel et frondeur ; 11 a laisse a d'autres parmi vous, qui ne failliront
pas a la tache, le soin de defendre la personnalite de Tame humaine
centre le flot grossissant de la philosophic de la nature. ... La
religion, la morale, la civilisation de 1'Europe reposent sur cette base
ferme du droit de tous les homines a la justice, a la sympathie, a la
liberte, reuvre du christianisme. . . . Aujourd'hui la science humaine,
plus avancee, sait du moins qu'elle ignore le principe des choses,
et il ne sernble pas jusqu'ici qu'elle ait regu mission de reveler des
dieux ou de peser Tame humaine a sa grossiere balance, ni qu'elle
ait rec,u pouvoir de garantir aux peuples leurs droits a la justice,
a la sympathie et a la liberte (J.-B. Dumas, Discours I, Paris 1885,
xxxv xxxvm).



190 V. CHEMISTRY.

"The Church has set and solved the last of them in that
sublime and terrible sentence which she inscribes on our
foreheads every year when, signing us with ashes for a
symbol, she says: Memento quia pulvis es et in pulverem
reverteris." l

In his memorial speech on Faraday, May i8 tb 1868,
Dumas says:

"God established all things according to number, measure,
and weight. These words from the Book of Wisdom date back
more than two thousand years, and Chemistry finds in them
and will always find a faithful expression of the harmonies
it observes in the number of particles contained in bodies,
in their volume and their weight." 2

A passage may also be quoted from his speech at
the reception of Taine into the Academy:

"Philosophy, as we all know, runs easily into extremes.
To-day an attempt is made to exhibit thought as a mere
secretion of the brain, a chemical product. But chemistry
knows its limits, and it is not true chemistry that will seek
to transgress these limits. There was a time when philo-
sophy was dominated by a mysticism which denied that the
mind has any sort of connection with the organism in which
it manifests itself.

"That was an exaggeration, and your studies have esta-
blished the function and role alike of the directive intellect,
and of the body which serves as its instrument without rudely



1 L'eglise a pose et resolu le dernier d'entre eux dans cette phrase
terrible et sublime qu'elle inscrit sur nos fronts, chaque annee, quand
elle y depose une cendre symbolique, et qu'elle repete le "Memento
quia pulvis es et in pulverem reverteris" (Dumas, Discours I 33).

2 Dieu a tout fait avec nombre, mesure et poids. Ces paroles
du livre de la Sagesse datent de deux mille ans , et les chimistes
y trouvent toujours 1'expression fidele des harmonies observees de
nos jours, dans le nombre des particules qui composent les corps,
dans leur volume et dans leur poids (ib. 82).



J. B. A. DUMAS. 191

separating the two. The conclusions to which you have
been led by a long and scientific study of human personality,
at the end of which the source of it and that of the uni-
verse disclose themselves, differ only very slightly from those
of the humblest, from those who find within themselves the
conception of the human soul and of God and accept them
as axioms which cannot be proved, and which do not stand
in need of proof. Modest disciples of the faith of the un-
lettered (foi de charbonnier), they climb up to heaven per-
pendicularly, as one of our old geometers says, while the
doctors are busy disputing, and is it not they who are right ?
Do not these two axiomatic ideas of theirs contain, as neces-
sary implications, the ideas of moral freedom, duty, justice,
and responsibility, and what egoistic system is able to
create and justify such ideas? Man is made for society,
and certain philosophers, viewing him as a mere animal,
have called him by way of compliment the tool-making
animal; but Goethe has described him as a being capable
of religion. And does he not in fact seem to have been
created for the apprehension of what we call, in the widest
sense, the Divine?

"If the faces of our first ancestors were turned towards
the heavens the secret depths of which were yet unknown
as towards a lost fatherland, will not the last of our children
lift their eyes, too, to the starry firmament as to a fatherland
found again?" l



1 ... Vos conclusions , resultat d'une longue investigation scien-
tifique de la personnalite humaine, au terme de laquelle apparaissen t
sa cause et la cause de 1'Univers , different peu de celles des plus
humbles creatures , trouvant sans e"tude au fond de leur cceur la
notion de Fame et celle de Dieu, comme des axiomes qui ne sont
pas susceptibles de demonstration et qui n'en ont pas besoin. Ces
modestes disciples de la foi du charbonnier, cherchant a gagner
le paradis par voie perpendiculaire, pendant que les docteurs dis-



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