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Jean-Baptiste Boussingault (February 2, 1802 – May 11, 1887)

French chemist Jean-Baptiste Joseph Dieudonné Boussingault made significant contributions to agricultural science, petroleum science and metallurgy. He identified the biological nitrogen cycle.

Feb 02_Forum_Sciencescript_Open_Access_Jean-Baptiste Boussingault

His first papers were concerned with agricultural and mining topics, the gases of volcanoes,
tropical rain, earthquakes, which won the commendation of Alexander von Humboldt. From 1836 , he was in to agricultural chemistry and vegetable and animal physiology, with occasional excursions into mineral chemistry.

His work included papers on:

1.Amount of gluten in different wheat’s

2.Amount of nitrogen in different foods

3.Investigations on the question whether plants can assimilate free nitrogen from the atmosphere – which he answered in the negative and propose the basis of what became known as the nitrogen cycle.

4. The respiration of plants, the function of their leaves, value of manures and chemical fertilizers.

In 1839, he was elected as a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.Most popular literature listed Boussingault as a contributor to the petroleum development of Alsace.Boussingault was an outstanding person in agricultural science, conducting the world’s first agricultural experimental station and making a series of discoveries that were to become the foundation of the modern agriculture that feeds us all.

In agriculture, discoveries include:

1.Growth of legume crops leading to increase in soil nitrogen

2.First analysis of crops grown in a rotation

3.Theory (later confirmed by Persoz) that the carbohydrate fraction of a food ration is metabolized to fat in herbivores

4.Plant growth is proportional to the amount of available assimilatory nitrogen, which allows greater plant growth from the simultaneous application of phosphorus and nitrogen

5.Defining the photosynthetic quotient.

Boussingault’s most important work was his contribution towards agricultural chemistry. His works and experiments highlighted the critical role of nitrogen in plant growth and ecological systems. This in turn made possible further developments in nitrogen harnessing and fertilization. In the modern agricultural industry , Nitrogen fertilizers are a critical component, which prevented major food shortages till present day. We eat from the science that has been built on the theoretical insights and experimentation of Boussingault.

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