City Readers Digital Historic Collections at the New York Society Library
Jean-Antoine-Claude Chaptal, comte de Chanteloup (1756-1832)
Jean-Antoine Chaptal, comte de Chanteloup (5 June 1756 – 30 July 1832) was a distinguished French chemist, physician, agronomist, industrialist, statesman, educator and philanthropist. His multifaceted career unfolded during one of the most brilliant periods in French science. In chemistry it was the time of Antoine Lavoisier, Claude-Louis Berthollet, Louis Guyton de Morveau, Antoine-François Fourcroy and Joseph Gay-Lussac. Chaptal made his way into this elite company in Paris beginning in the 1780s, and established his credentials as a serious scientist most definitely with the publication of his first major scientific treatise, the Ėléments de chimie (3 vols, Montpellier, 1790). His treatise brought the term "nitrogen" into the revolutionary new chemical nomenclature developed by Lavoisier. By 1795, at the newly established École Polytechnique in Paris, Chaptal shared the teaching of courses in pure and applied chemistry with Claude-Louis Berthollet, the doyen of the science. In 1798, Chaptal was elected a member of the prestigious Chemistry Section of the Institut de France. He became president of the section in 1802 soon after Napoleon appointed him Minister of Interior (6 November 1800). Chaptal was a key figure in the early industrialization in France under Napoleon and during the Bourbon Restoration. He was a founder and first president in 1801 of the important Society for the Encouragement of National Industry and a key organizer of industrial expositions held in Paris in 1801 and subsequent years. He compiled a valuable study, De l'industrie française (1819), surveying the condition and needs of French industry in the early 1800s. Chaptal was especially strong in applied science. Beginning in the early 1780s, he published a continuous stream of practical essays on such things as acids and salts, alum, sulfur, pottery and cheese making, sugar beets, fertilizers, bleaching, degreasing, painting and dyeing. As a chemicals industrialist, he was a major producer of hydrochloric, nitric and sulfuric acids, and was much sought after as a technical consultant for the manufacture of gunpowder. His reputation as a master of applied science, dedicated to using the discoveries of chemistry for the benefit of industry and agriculture, was furthered with the publication of his L'Art de faire, de gouverner et de perfectionner les vins (1801) and La Chimie appliquée aux arts (1806), works that drew on the theoretical chemistry of Lavoisier to revolutionize the art of wine-making in France. His new procedure of adding sugar to increase the final alcohol content of wines came to be called "chaptalization." In 1802, Chaptal purchased the Château de Chanteloup and its extensive grounds in Touraine, near Amboise. He raised merino sheep and experimented there in his later years on a model farm for the cultivation of sugar beets. He wrote his classic study of the application of scientific principles to the cultivation of land, the Chimie appliquée à l'agriculture (1823), and composed his important political memoir, Mes souvenirs sur Napoléon(1893). Napoleon named Chaptal Count of the Empire (1808) and Count of Chanteloup (1810). In 1819 he was named by Louis XVIII to the Restoration's Chamber of Peers.