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Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner (13 December 1780 – 24 March 1849) was a German chemist who is best known for work that foreshadowed the periodic law for the chemical elements and inventing the first lighter, which was known as the Döbereiner's lamp.[1] He became a professor of chemistry and pharmacy at the University of Jena.

Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner
Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner.jpg
Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner
Born(1780-12-13)13 December 1780
Died24 March 1849(1849-03-24) (aged 68)
Known forDöbereiner's triads
Döbereiner's lamp
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Jena


Life and workEdit

As a coachman's son, Döbereiner had little opportunity for formal schooling. Thus, he was apprenticed to an apothecary, and began to start reading widely and attending science lectures. He eventually became a professor at the University of Jena in 1810 and also studied chemistry at Strasbourg. In work published in 1829,[2] Döbereiner reported trends in certain properties of selected groups of elements. For example, the average atomic mass of lithium and potassium was close to the atomic mass of sodium. A similar pattern was found with calcium, strontium, barium, sulfur, selenium, tellurium, chlorine, bromine, and iodine. Moreover, the densities for some of these triads followed a similar pattern. These sets of elements became known as "Döbereiner's triads".[3][4]

Döbereiner's lamp

Döbereiner also is known for his discovery of furfural,[5] for his work on the use of platinum as a catalyst, and for a lighter, known as Döbereiner's lamp. By 1828 hundreds of thousands of these lighters had been mass produced by the German manufacturer Gottfried Piegler in Schleiz.[6]

The German writer Goethe was a friend of Döbereiner, attended his lectures weekly, and used his theories of chemical affinities as a basis for his famous 1809 novella Elective Affinities.



  1. ^ "Treasures: Table lighters ignite interest in collectors". 2016-11-11. Retrieved 2017-01-27.
  2. ^ Döbereiner, Johann Wolfgang (1829). "An Attempt to Group Elementary Substances according to Their Analogies". Annalen der Physik und Chemie. 15 (2): 301–307. doi:10.1002/andp.18290910217. an attempt which I made twelve years ago to group substances by their analogies.
  3. ^ "Johann Wolfgang Dobereiner". Archived from the original on 2016-03-23. Retrieved 2016-03-23.
  4. ^ "A Historic Overview: Mendeleev and the Periodic Table" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-03-08.
  5. ^ J. W. Döbereiner (1832). "Ueber die medicinische und chemische Anwendung und die vortheilhafte Darstellung der Ameisensäure". Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft. 3 (2): 141–146. doi:10.1002/jlac.18320030206.
  6. ^ Thomas, John Meurig (2017). "The RSC Faraday prize lecture of 1989". Chemical Communications. 53 (66): 9185–9197. doi:10.1039/C7CC90240A. PMID 28782762.

Further readingEdit