WILLIAM ODLING: The composition of hippuric acid and water--Toxicology

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William Odling(1829-1921) was a British physician and chemist who carried on important work about chemical nomenclature, classification of the elements, techniques for the toxicological analysis of arsenic, antimony and copper, analysis of river and cesspool waters, etc. Odling showed that the different opinions regarding the composition of hippuric acid were due to the use of different reagents to attack only one of the components of the acid and that the overall picture showed that hippuric acid had to be composed of benzoic acid and glycine. Odling studied in detail the use of the toxicological exams of Reinsch for detecting arsenic, antimony and copper, and of Marsh for arsenic, and determined the appropriate conditions for avoiding false results as well as
increase the detection limits. Together with Dupré they showed that copper was naturally present in a large variety of organic matter (i.e. bread, flour, wheat, blood, flesh, human muscle, liver and kidney tissue, etc.). Together with Buckton they used alkyl derivatives of aluminum to prove that the correct formula of aluminum chloride was AlCl3 and not Al2Cl3. Odling used speculative arguments to show that the atomic mass of oxygen was 16 and that the molecular mass and formula of water were 18 and H2O, respectively.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)098-109
Number of pages12
JournalRevista CENIC Ciencias Biológicas
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2019


  • aluminum chloride
  • copper
  • hippuric acid
  • toxicology
  • molecular formula of water


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