Nicolas Leblanc (Top 10 Scientists who Suicide)

Nicolas Leblanc

Nicolas Leblanc

Nicolas Leblanc was a French chemist and surgeon, famed for being the first person to manufacture soda from common salt.

Born in 1742, Leblanc developed an interest in medicine at a young age and enrolled in the Paris College of Surgeons in 1759. In 1780, he became private physician to the household of Louis Philip II, Duke of Orleans.

In 1775, the French Academy of Sciences offered a prize for a process whereby soda ash could be produced from salt. The French Academy wanted to promote the production of much-needed sodium carbonate from inexpensive sodium chloride. By 1791, Nicolas Leblanc had succeeded in producing sodium carbonate from salt by a 2-step process. The prize was awarded to Nicolas Leblanc for a process which used sea salt and sulphuric acid as the raw materials. Later, a plant of his own was in operation producing 320 tons of soda ash per year.

Two years later the plant was confiscated by the French revolutionary government, which refused to pay him the prize money he had earned ten years earlier.

In 1802, Napoleon returned the plant (but not the prize money) to him, but by then Leblanc was so broke he could not afford to run it. He killed himself in 1806.