Daniel Rutherford

A year ago today I published a post on Alfred Werner, a Swiss Chemist who won a Nobel Prize for work relating to coordination numbers. Alfred Werner died on 15th November 1919.

The 15th of November is also the day on which Daniel Rutherford died, exactly 100 years earlier in 1819. Rutherford was responsible for the isolation of Nitrogen and was a supporter of the phlogiston theory.

Rutherford was brought up in Edinburgh and also attended Edinburgh University. Following on from his time at university Rutherford became an eminent botanist and was the keeper of the royal botanic gardens, Edinburgh.

Daniel Rutherford was passed the task of researching carbon dioxide by his then teacher Joseph Black. It was during this research that Rutherford first isolated Nitrogen.

Rutherford put a mouse into a confined sample of air until it died, he then burnt a candle in that air until it went out. He then passed the remaining air through a solution which removed the carbon dioxide. The remaining air would also not support combustion. Neither could a mouse live in it.

Rutherford called this air “noxious air” or “phlogisticated” air which meant that it could not support fire. Rutherford had in fact isolated nitrogen