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Free «Carl Wilhelm Scheele» Essay Sample

W.C. Scheele is one of the key figures in the development of pharmaceutical profession. He made scores of discoveries in chemistry that are very important. Among them include the discovery of oxygen and chlorine. W.C. Scheele was born in 1742. His father, Joachim Christian Scheele, was a renowned merchant from a respected German family. W.C. Scheele formal education ended when he was only 14 years of age. It is at this time that he developed interest in chemistry. He was taken to Gothenburg as an apprentice in apothecary. During the eight years he spent in the apothecary shop, W.C. Scheele was also engaged in reading the famous works of chemistry at his time. These included among others, discovery of phosphorus, designer of the phlogiston theory, Lemery, Kunkel and Stahl. He also tried to perform experiments he read using his own crude instruments.

W.C. Scheele made discoveries in the field of organic, inorganic and physical chemistry. He made independent discoveries of organic acids that exist in fruits and vegetables. His ability to isolate these acids separately and identify them with their specific sources is notable. Among them include uric acid from urine, garlic acid from gall and citric acid from lemon. In the course of his experiments, W.C. Scheele also discovered oxygen and chlorine.



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Although air was known to be an invisible element, scientists were not able to determine its composition. Scheele made the discovery that air was made up of two gaseous elements in the proportion of three to one. Heat and light were assumed to have the combination of phlogiston and oxygen. The scientist also made people to understand the underlying concepts of oxidation and reduction processes. This dismissed various speculations that scientist held before.

W.C Scheele was greatly significant in the discovery of oxygen alongside his colleagues. Oxygen was known as the gas which supports combustion or fire air. Scheele performed several experiments in his discovery of the gas. He heated several oxygen-containing substances like mercuric oxide and realized that many substances needed oxygen to burn. W.C. Scheele disapproved phlogiston theory which stated that phlogiston was a requirement in combustion. However, Scheele proved that it was heat and not phlogiston that was required for the process. During the burning process, Scheele also realized that another gas remained behind. H e termed the gas as foul. In the present, the gas is known as nitrogen.

In his research to discover uric acid, Scheele used a collection of bladder calculi. He pulverized the calculi and tested for their properties using various chemical and physical agents. Calculus acid was found to be in all urines. However, high concentrations were noted in those of sick people. The calculus dissolved completely in water. The rate of dissolving was higher in boiled water. It was noticed that the solution does not precipitate in lime water and forms fine crystals when it is cooled. It also turned tincture of litmus red. Thus, apart from the initial discoveries of other substances like common salt being present in urine, uric acid was also discovered.

In 1774, Scheele made another very important discovery in science that is considered to be more revolutionary than the discovery of oxygen. He was able to identify iron, lime and silica from a specimen of impure manganese dioxide (pyrolusite). At first , he only identified manganese but could not isolate it. He then decided to treat the substance with hydrochloric acid  on a warm sand bath. The result was a yellow-green gas that had strong odor. The gas sank to the bottom of the bottle used for experiment. It was also discovered that the gas was heavier than ordinary air. The gas was insoluble in water. It had a bleaching effect on some flowers and wet, blue litmus paper. He named the gas “dephlogisticated muriatic acid. The gas was latter named chlorine, even to the present. Other substances that were discovered alongside include permanganates and baryta.

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In 1775, Scheele discovered arseniuretted hydrogen from arsenic acid and its reactions. Copper arsenite, which was named then as “Scheele’s green” was also discovered then. He published this in 1778. Scheele also proposed a totally new method for making calomel and powder of algaroth. He also got molybdic acid from mineral molybdaena nitens. He was able to distinguish this from the commonly known molybdena. Scheele obtained mucic acid by boiling milk sugar with nitric acid. He also proved that the acidity that is tasted in sour milk is due to what is known currently as lactic acid. In1782, he published experiments on ether.

The chemical works of W.C Scheele have been of great importance in the profession of pharmacy and even other sciences. We can say that Scheele gave the manual for performing scientific experiments and thus making new discoveries. Even though his methods and instruments of research were crude, his discoveries gave the current researchers clue on how to perform their experiments.

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The chemicals that W. C. Scheele discovered are now being used extensively in research. For example, chlorine is used in making drugs that are used by human beings. Pharmacists also use it to make vaccines that are used to prevent various kinds of diseases. Chlorine is also used in the process of water treatment, which makes it safe for human consumption. Chlorine is used to deactivate many microorganisms in the water that cause diseases like amoeba and dysentery.

Chlorine readily dissolves in water to produce hypochlorous acid (HOCL) and hydrochloric acid (HCL). These chemicals are used to kill germs thereby preventing contraction diseases. Chlorine water is also used to obtain bromine from sea water. Bromine is used in other chemical processes to produce important substances used by pharmacists in making drugs. Chlorine water is also used as a bleaching agent for fabrics and paper. Chlorine is also used in making useful compounds. These include pesticides, insecticides and medicines.

Compressed oxygen is used extensively in the treatment and suppression of some health conditions. These include hypoxia, where the oxygen levels in the blood are bellow the required, asthma, pulmonary edema and bronchitis. Hyperbaric oxygen treatment has been used extensively in cases of non-healing wounds, air and gas embolism, carbon monoxide poisoning and decompression sickness. In these treatments, a patient is placed on a pressurized chamber and air driven diven directly into their tissues. Oxygen therapy is administered to patients with severe cases. It is used in the healing of acute illnesses.

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Nitrogen is used to prevent the reaction of other chemical substances. It is used to remove the reactive process gases like oxygen which make chemicals unstable. It is also used in blanketing chemical tanks and nitrogen packaging in pharmaceutical industries. 

Potassium permanganate is used in the termination of pregnancies. It is however recommended only for severe cases. If a pregnant woman has health risk during her pregnancies that are fatal, termination of the pregnancy is therefore recommended. Permanganate tablets are used extensively in clinics in treatment of various skin conditions.


W.C Scheele was greatly significant in the discovery of oxygen alongside his colleagues. Oxygen was known as the gas which supports combustion or fire air. Scheele performed several experiments in his discovery of the gas. He heated several oxygen-containing substances like mercuric oxide and realized that many substances needed oxygen to burn


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