LOUIS HENRI FREDERIC MELSENS Nicotine, potassium iodide, and sulfur compounds

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Louis Henri Frédéric Melsens (1814-1886) was a Belgian chemist, student of Dumas and Liebig, who showed the possibility of chlorinating an organic compound by hydrogen substitution; separated nicotine, determined its formula, and proved it was a powerful poison; discovered and described the composition and properties of sulfacetic acid, developed the synthesis of sulfuryl chloride by diverse procedures involving the direct reaction between SO2 and chlorine. Melsens carried an extensive study on the possibility of using potassium iodide as an antidote to poisoning by mercury and lead; the basic idea was to try to stabilize the metallic compounds that the animal economy retained by associating them with a substance that the economy was able to eliminate
easily. He took advantage of the fact that all the insoluble compounds formed by mercury salts found in animal economy were soluble in potassium iodide and that the body could eliminate easily. He studied the action of activated carbon on the partial solidification of a volatile liquid, the accompanying thermal phenomena, and proved that the wetting of a solid was accompanied by an increase in temperature. He developed an improved process for the saponification of fats, for the extraction of sugar with the help of calcium bisulfide, a very efficient lightning rod based on Faraday
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-336
Number of pages15
JournalRevista CENIC. Ciencias Quimicas
Issue number2
StatePublished - 23 Dec 2020


  • activated carbon
  • nicotine
  • potassium iodide
  • sulfoacétic acid
  • sulfuryl chloride


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