Antoine François, comte de Fourcroy

Antoine François, comte de Fourcroy

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Antoine François, comte de Fourcroy (June 15, 1755 – December 16, 1809) was a French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

A chemist is a scientist trained in the study of chemistry. Chemists study the composition of matter and its properties such as density and acidity. Chemists carefully describe the properties they study in terms of quantities, with detail on the level of molecules and their component atoms...

 and a contemporary of Antoine Lavoisier. Fourcroy collaborated with Lavoisier, Guyton de Morveau, and Claude Berthollet on the Méthode de nomenclature chimique, a work that helped standardize chemical nomenclature.

Life and work

Fourcroy was born in Paris, the son of an apothecary
Apothecary is a historical name for a medical professional who formulates and dispenses materia medica to physicians, surgeons and patients — a role now served by a pharmacist and some caregivers....

 in the household of the Duke of Orleans. On the advice of the anatomist Félix Vicq-d'Azyr
Félix Vicq-d'Azyr
Félix Vicq d'Azyr was a French physician and anatomist, the originator of comparative anatomy and discoverer of the theory of homology in biology.-Biography:Vicq d'Azyr was born in Valognes, Normandy, the son of a physician...

 (1748–1794) he took up medical
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

 studies, and after many difficulties caused by lack of means he finally obtained his doctor's diploma in 1780. Fourcroy's attention was turned specifically to chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

 by J. B. M. Bucquet (1746–1780), the professor of chemistry at the Medical School of Paris. In 1784 Fourcroy was chosen to succeed P. J. Macquer (1718–1784) as lecturer in chemistry at the college of the Jardin du Roi
Jardin des Plantes
The Jardin des Plantes is the main botanical garden in France. It is one of seven departments of the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle. It is situated in the 5ème arrondissement, Paris, on the left bank of the river Seine and covers 28 hectares .- Garden plan :The grounds of the Jardin des...

, where his lectures attained great popularity.

Fourcroy was one of the earliest converts to the views of Lavoisier
Antoine Lavoisier
Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier , the "father of modern chemistry", was a French nobleman prominent in the histories of chemistry and biology...

, which he helped to promulgate by his own voluminous writings. The Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

's Catalogue of Scientific Papers enumerates fifty-nine memoirs by Fourcroy alone, and fifty-eight written with others, mostly Louis Nicolas Vauquelin
Louis Nicolas Vauquelin
Nicolas Louis Vauquelin , was a French pharmacist and chemist.-Early life:Vauquelin was born at Saint-André-d'Hébertot in Normandy, France. His first acquaintance with chemistry was gained as laboratory assistant to an apothecary in Rouen , and after various vicissitudes he obtained an introduction...

. Fourcroy's 1785 publication, Entomologia Parisiensis, sive, Catalogus insectorum quae in agro Parisiensi reperiuntur ..., co-written with Étienne Louis Geoffroy
Étienne Louis Geoffroy
Étienne Louis Geoffroy was a French entomologist and pharmacist. He was born in Paris and died in Soissons. He followed the binomial nomenclature of Carl von Linné and devoted himself mainly to beetles....

, was a major contribution to systematic entomology
Entomology is the scientific study of insects, a branch of arthropodology...


Although Fourcroy's name appears on a large number of chemical and also physiological
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

 and pathological
Pathology is the precise study and diagnosis of disease. The word pathology is from Ancient Greek , pathos, "feeling, suffering"; and , -logia, "the study of". Pathologization, to pathologize, refers to the process of defining a condition or behavior as pathological, e.g. pathological gambling....

 memoirs, he was as much a teacher and an organizer as an original investigator. While a member of the committees for public instruction and public safety, and later, under Napoleon I
Napoleon I
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

, director-general of instruction, Fourcroy took a leading part in the establishment of schools for both primary and secondary education, scientific studies being especially provided for.

In 1801, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences or Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien is one of the Royal Academies of Sweden. The Academy is an independent, non-governmental scientific organization which acts to promote the sciences, primarily the natural sciences and mathematics.The Academy was founded on 2...


Fourcroy died in Paris on December 16, 1809, the very day on which he was created a count of the French empire. He is buried in the Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

It is believed that Cape Fourcroy
Cape Fourcroy
Cape Fourcroy is located at the western tip of Bathurst Island. Cyclone Tracy passed through here. It is the location of Cape Fourcroy Light, an active lighthouse....

, at the western tip of Bathurst Island, Northern Territory
Bathurst Island, Northern Territory
Bathurst Island is one of the Tiwi Islands in the Northern Territory off the northern coast of Australia along with Melville Island.-Description:...

, Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, is named after Fourcroy. The cape was named during Baudin's expedition to Australia, and it is known that Baudin had a copy of one of Fourcroy's texts with him on the Géographe
French corvette Géographe
The Géographe was a 20-gun Serpente class corvette of the French Navy.She was named Uranie in 1797, and renamed Galatée in 1799, still on her building site, as her builder refused to launched her, as he had not been paid...



By his conduct as a member of the Convention, Fourcroy has been accused of contributing to Lavoisier's death. Baron Cuvier
Georges Cuvier
Georges Chrétien Léopold Dagobert Cuvier or Jean Léopold Nicolas Frédéric Cuvier , known as Georges Cuvier, was a French naturalist and zoologist...

, in his Eloge historique of Fourcroy, repelled such charges. The Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition
Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition
The Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition is a 29-volume reference work, an edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. It was developed during the encyclopaedia's transition from a British to an American publication. Some of its articles were written by the best-known scholars of the time...

 says that although active, though secret, participation cannot be proved against Fourcroy, he can scarcely be acquitted of time-serving indifference. See the works in the Bibliography below for other opinions.

External links