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The New Student's Reference Work/Bunsen, Robert Wilhelm

Bun′sen (bo͞on′sen), Robert Wilhelm, a distinguished German physicist and chemist, born at Göttingen, March 31, 1811. He received his university training at Göttingen, where he took his doctor's degree at the age of 20. His education was continued at Paris, Berlin and Vienna. At the age of 22 he began, with a privat-docentship at Göttingen, that marvelous career of teacher and investigator destined to extend over more than half a century and to make his name beloved by his own students and a household word for all others. The years from 1851 to 1899 were spent at the University of Heidelberg.

In addition to his more technical chemical investigations, the following may be mentioned as his most important contributions to science:

1. The invention of the Bunsen battery which replaced the expensive platinum plate of the Grove cell by a cheap carbon rod.

2. The invention of the Bunsen burner now in use everywhere from the kitchen to the research laboratory.

3. A satisfactory explanation of the phenomenon of the geyser, given after a trip to Iceland in 1847.

4. Precise methods for analyzing gases.

5. The chemical action of light.

6. His well-known ice-calorimeter for measuring quantities of heat.

7. His most important contribution, however, is that which he, in conjunction with Kirchoff, published in 1860 and 1861, namely, the establishment of the foundation of spectrum analysis. These two men showed that the prism is a reliable and delicate method for detecting the presence of any particular element in a chemical compound. And in their second paper they exemplified this fact by the discovery of two new elements, namely, cæsium and rubidium.

During the last ten years of his life Bunsen was not engaged in active teaching, but held an emeritus professorship at Heidelberg, where he died August 16, 1899.