FREDERICK CRACE-CALVERT Vegetable chemistry, putrefaction, and phenol

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Frederick Crace-Calvert (1819-1873), an English chemist, carried extensive research on the on a wide variety of subjects (inorganic, organic, and biochemistry, materials science, coal chemistry, manufacture of steel, etc. He developed a novel method for separating the quinine and cinchonine in very high yield from quinidine, based on using a dilute solution of sodium chloride, instead of a mixture of calcium chloride and HCl. Together with Ferrand he studied the phenomenon of photosynthesis based on the analysis of the air contained in the hermetic seedpods of Colutea arborescens. Their results indicated that vegetables decomposed CO2 under the influence of diffuse and sunlight, that the decomposition of this gas was proportional to the intensity of the light and its duration, that the CO2 that disappeared was completely decomposed into carbon and oxygen, and that the absorption of the gas was proportional to the force of vegetation. His study of the phenomenon of putrefaction indicated that a new volatile alkaloid was released and that the elements N, S, and P were not eliminated as such but as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. He also found that the germs of fermentation and infection could be dispersed from their source by a current of atmospheric air and could be eliminated only under the action of strong disinfecting agents such as phenol and cresylic acid. He also studied the effect of different agents, such as heat, on microorganisms, under different conditions (dried before or after the action of heat). Crace-Calvert, single-handed, may be considered the scientist that led to establish phenol as an excellent disinfecting agent in therapeutic uses and as a chemical source of additional valuable chemicals. He also studied the adulteration of important commodities, such as tobacco and oils.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-233
Number of pages16
JournalRevista CENIC. Ciencias Biológicas
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • adulteration
  • alkaloids
  • microorganisms
  • phenol
  • putrefaction


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