- Henri Victor Regnault
name = Henri Victor Regnault
caption = Henri Victor Regnault
July 21, 1810
January 19, 1878
nationality = flag|France|name=French
Justus von Liebig
influenced = William Thomson
Henri Victor Regnault (
July 21, 1810– January 19, 1878) was a French chemist and physicist best known for his careful measurements of the thermal properties of gases. He was an early thermodynamicistand was mentor to William Thomson in the late 1840s.
Aachenin 1810, he moved to Parisfollowing the death of his parents at the age of eight. There, he worked for an upholstery firm until he was eighteen. In 1830, he was admitted to the École Polytechnique, and in 1832 he graduated from the École des mines.
Justus von Liebigat Gießen, Regnault distinguished himself in the nascent field of organic chemistryby synthesizing several chlorinated hydrocarbons(e.g. vinyl chloride, polyvinyl chloride, dichloromethane), and he was appointed professor of chemistry at the University of Lyon. In 1840, he was appointed the chair of chemistry of the Ecole Polytechnique, and in 1841, he became a professor of Physics in the College de France.
Beginning in 1843, he began compiling extensive numerical tables on the properties of steam. These were published in 1847, and led to his receiving the
Rumford Medalof the Royal Society of Londonand appointment as Chief Engineer of Mines. In 1854 he was appointed director of the porcelainworks at Sèvres.
At Sèvres, he continued work on the thermal properties of matter. He designed sensitive
thermometers, hygrometers, hypsometers and calorimeters, and measured the specific heats of many substances and the coefficient of thermal expansionof gases. In the course of this work, he discovered that not all gases expand equally when heated and that Boyle's Lawis only an approximation, especially at temperatures near a substance's boiling point.
Regnault was also an avid amateur photographer. He introduced the use of
pyrogallic acidas a developing agent, and was one of the first photographers to use paper negatives. In 1854, he became the founding president of the Société Française de Photographie.
In 1871, his laboratory at Sèvres was destroyed and his son
Alex-Georges-Henri Regnaultkilled, both as a result of the Franco-Prussian War. He retired from science the next year, never recovering from these losses.
Regnault crater, on the
Moon, is named after him. Some have suggested that the ideal gas constant("R" = 8.31441 J/(mol·K)) is also named after him.
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