Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac (1778-1850)

Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac

778 He was born at Saint-Leonard-le-Noblat, France. He was a French chemist and physicist. He is known mostly for two laws related to gases, and for his work on alcohol-water mixtures, which led to the degrees Gay-Lussac used to measure alcoholic beverages in many countries. [1] His father, Antonie Gay, was a magistrate. “Lussac” name was that of a croft that the father owned. This name was added to the origin name in order to be distinguished from the other members of the family.

1794 When he was 16 years old, Gay-Lussac succeeded without a teacher to initiate himself in Mathematics field.

1797 Being 19, he was accepted to Polytechnic where, to reduce his parents’ expanses, he taught private lessons, and during night he was learning in order to be updated with studies.

1800 Gay-Lussac obtained the title of bridges engineer, but he did not perform this specialization preferring to accept Berthollet’s offer to work for his laboratory, under his competent guidance. The laboratory was one of the best equipped at that time, having a rich collection of devices for Chemistry and Physics. After a short time he was appointed meditator of Fourcroy courses within Polytechnic and on these conditions he became famous by the frequent occasions he had to replace his teacher.

His first work had as subject gas dilatation. He discovered the law that bears his name: ”a gas without water vapors distends by 1/273rd part of its volume at 0 degrees, for each centigrade degree of its increasing temperature”. Or according to current expressing, “the expansion coefficient of gases under a constant pressure is numerically equal to unit volume variation, when the temperature varies with a centigrade degree”. Accurate measurements determined for expansion coefficient of all gases under constant pressure the value of 1/273 degree-1. Gay-Lussac also performed researches regarding magnetic force.

1804 Together with Biot he stood up by balloon until 7016 meters above the middle level of the sea. Nobody before them had reached this height. They established that the magnetic force decreases very much with height.

1816 Gay-Lussac built siphon barometer in order to avoid errors that appeared because of capillarity effects.

Among other works of him regarding Physics it may be quoted those related to hygrometry, vacuum mist and to their mixing with gases; he offered indications for thermometers construction and grading.

Regarding Chemistry, Gay-Lussac also discovered gasses combination in volumes law. Together with Thenard he discovered chloride, boron, fluoride acid. Related to iodine, it is told that M. Courtois (Paris) had discovered on varech plant ash a new element and had sent to Humphry Davy samples for researching.  Gay-Lussac found out this thing and in order not to allow France to lose the priority it had, finished during few days a complete work on iodine that Courtois had found by mistake.

Gay-Lussac had an extremely simple life and he was not interested in the surroundings; he did not like and did not want honour and benefits. Within his lectures he did not use oratorical tricks. In the laboratory he worked wearing clogs, without mysteries and fame, telling to his collaborators his ideas and impressions, enjoying wholeheartedly the success of an experiment or a theoretical prevention achieving.

At the end of his life, he had become one of the intellects of Academy of Sciences, within the word had an unquestionable authority; he was considered a clairvoyant and judiciously by excellence, one of the best advisers and an inflexible critic.

He was elected MP and pair of France because of the fame he enjoyed.

1850 On the 9th of May, Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac died at Paris, France. [2]




    1. Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac (1778-1850), - accesed on 09.09.2013
    2. Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac (1778-1850), - accesed on 09.13.2013