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Sulfuric acid history

[1] ROEBUCK, JOHN (1718—1794), English inventor, was born in 1718 at Sheffield, where his father had a prosperous manufacturing business. After attending the grammar school at Sheffield and Dr Philip Doddridge’s academy at Northampton, he studied medicine at Edinburgh, where he was imbued with a taste for chemistry by the lectures of William Cullen and Joseph Black, and he finally graduated M.D. at Leiden in 1742. He started practice at Birmingham, but devoted much of his time to chemistry, especially in its practical applications. Among the most important of his early achievements in this field was the introduction, in 1746, of leaden condensing chambers for use in the manufacture of sulphuric acid. Together with Samuel Garbett he erected a factory at Prestonpans, near,Edinburgh, for the production of the acid in 1749, and for some years enjoyed a monopoly; but ultimately his methods became known, and, having omitted to take out patents for them at the proper time, he was unable to restrain others from making use of them. Engaging next in the manufacture of iron, he in 1760 established the ironworks which still exist at Carron, in Stirlingshire. There he introduced various improvements in the methods of production, including the conversion (patented in 1762) of cast iron into malleable iron “ by the action of a hollow pit-coal fire” urged by a powerful artificial blast. His next enterprise was less successful. He leased a colliery at Bo’ness to supply coal to the Carron works, but in sinking for new seams encountered such quantities of water that the Newcomen engine which he used was unable to keep the pit clear. ‘ In this difficulty he heard of James Watt’s engine and entered into communication with its inventor. This engine, then at an early stage of its development, also proved inadequate, but Roebuck became a strong believer in its future and in return for a two-thirds share in the invention assisted Watt in perfecting its details. His troubles at the colliery, however, aggravated by the failure of an attempt to manufacture alkali, brought him into pecuniary straits, and he parted with his share in Watt’s engine to Matthew Boulton in return for the cancellation of a debt of £1200 which he owed the latter. Subsequently, though he had to give up his interest in the Bo’ness works, he continued to manage them and to reside at the neighbouring Kinneil House, where he occupied himself with farming on a considerable scale. He died on the 17th of July 1794. [2] Gay-Lussac, like his mentor Berthollet, was interested in how chemical reactions take place. Working with the mathematical physicist, LaPlace, Gay-Lussac made quantitative measurements on capillary action. The goal was to support LaPlace 's belief in his Newtonian theory of chemical affinity. In 1814 this theoretical bent continued as Gay-Lussac and LaPlace sought to determine if chemistry could be reduced to applied mathematics. The approach was to ask whether the conditions of chemical reactions could be reduced simply to, as LaPlace had suggested, considerations of heat.
As with his mentor before him, Gay-Lussac was consulted by industry and supported by the government. "Napoleonic science sharpened the appetites of young men by holding up the prospects of recognition and reward". Gay-Lussac and Thenard, the laboratory boy turned professor, isolated the element boron nine days before Davy's group did (but Davy was the first to publish.) Gay-Lussac led his group into the isolation of plant alkaloids for potential medical use and he was instrumental in developing the industrial production of oxalic acid from the fusion of sawdust with alkali. His most important contribution to industry was, in 1827, the refinement of the lead chamber process for the production of sulfuric acid, the industrial chemical produced in largest volume in the world. The tall absorbtion towers were known as Gay-Lussac Towers. The process is: SO2 (g) + NO2 (g) -> SO3 (g) + NO (g)
This reaction was carried out in a lead-lined chamber in which the sulfur trioxide was then dissolved in water to produce sulfuric acid. Gay-Lussac's contribution was a process for recycling the nitrogen monoxide after oxidizing it to NO2.