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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Geoffroy, Étienne François

< 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica

GEOFFROY, ÉTIENNE FRANÇOIS (1672–1731), French chemist, born in Paris on the 13th of February 1672, was first an apothecary and then practised medicine. After studying at Montpellier he accompanied Marshal Tallard on his embassy to London in 1698 and thence travelled to Holland and Italy. Returning to Paris he became professor of chemistry at the Jardin du Roi and of pharmacy and medicine at the Collège de France, and dean of the faculty of medicine. He died in Paris on the 6th of January 1731. His name is best known in connexion with his tables of affinities (tables des rapports), which he presented to the French Academy in 1718 and 1720. These were lists, prepared by collating observations on the actions of substances one upon another, showing the varying degrees of affinity exhibited by analogous bodies for different reagents, and they retained their vogue for the rest of the century, until displaced by the profounder conceptions introduced by C. L. Berthollet. Another of his papers dealt with the delusions of the philosopher’s stone, but nevertheless he believed that iron could be artificially formed in the combustion of vegetable matter. His Tractatus de materia medica, published posthumously in 1741, was long celebrated.

His brother Claude Joseph, known as Geoffroy the younger (1685–1752), was also an apothecary and chemist who, having a considerable knowledge of botany, devoted himself especially to the study of the essential oils in plants.