German scientist, b. Wernigerode, Prussia 1743-12-01, d. Berlin 1817-01-01.

Klaproth was one of a very important generation of European scientists and thinkers, a generation that shed light on the world of natural processes like few before it, and paved the way for science as we know it today. Along with his contemporaries Lavoisier and Cavendish, he helped define chemistry as a science. While others in the field started out as lay experimenters, Klaproth was a trained pharmacist--in those days the closest you could get to a chem set without being called an alchemist or a crackpot.

He became an apothecary's assistant at the age of 16 and gained experience working as an associate in Gdansk and Hannover before taking over a pharmacy called the "White Swan" in Berlin. In 1780 he married into a family of good standing in the profession and in the same year qualified as a pharmacist and bought his own shop in which he kept the laboratory in which most of his discoveries would be made.

During the course of the next ten years he lectured at several prominent academies in Berlin and was accepted into the prestigious Akademie der Wissenschaften, which gave him the use of significant resources that would help him experiment. In 1792 he broke with the prevailing phlogiston theory and sided with Lavoisier in its rejection. He invented his own methods of mineral analysis and used them to identify a number of elements in wide use today as well as determining the quantitative composition of about 200 minerals. His methods would remain in use for the best part of a century and make posterity hail him as the father of analytical chemistry. He also took some part in establishing legislation for the apothecary profession and helped with the first scientifically founded pharmacopoieia to be published in Prussia.

Klaproth authored almost 500 scientific papers, about half of them in his six volume "Treatise on the Chemical Properties of Minerals," compiled between 1795 and 1815. In 1810 Wilhelm von Humboldt nominated him to the chair of Chemistry at the newly founded Friedrich Wilhelm University, making him the first to teach the subject there. A series of strokes beginning in 1814 forced him to reduce his workload and eventually led to his death on New Year's Day 1817.

Elements identified by Klaproth:

Sources:
Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk
European Network for Chemistry
University of Coimbra, Portugal
World Nuclear Association
Technische Universität Berlin

The 'th' in M.H. Klaproth, by the way, is pronounced like a regular t since German has no 'th' sound--the h rather serves to elongate the 'o' sound. You can talk about him and Klaproth the bot at the same time and tell them apart from the way their names are pronounced, though why you would want to do that is beyond me.

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