The kitchen maid in service of the famous Swedish chemist Jöns Jacob Berzelius was once asked how her master worked. She said, “First, he pours something from a large bottle into a smaller bottle, shakes it, then pours it into an even smaller bottle, shakes it again...” “What comes next?” the public wondered. “And then pours it all into the garbage,” the kitchen maid answered joyfully. In fact, it was not that bad. Jöns Jacob Berzelius was getting more than just garbage. The professor in chemistry and President of the Swedish Academy of Sciences discovered cerium, selenium, thorium, first obtained silicon, titanium, tantalum, and zirconium in a free state. Berzelius developed the electrochemical theory, made up an atomic weight table and introduced the notion of “organic chemistry.” He studied paratartaric acid and discovered that its composition was identical to that of tartaric acid. But how can one tell the differences in the properties of these acids? Berzelius wondered. Could it be a different arrangement of atoms? In order to describe the phenomenon, Berzelius coined the term “isomerism.” And such important chemical notions, as catalysis and allotropy, also came from Berzelius’s mind.
It is Berzelius who is to be thanked every time we look at the table of elements. He suggested replacing the awkward and diverse symbols of the elements with uniform designations. He came up with the idea of designating the elements with letters — one or two letters taken from their Latin names. And this is not a complete list of his scientific merits.
All his life he taught, wrote textbooks and pursued science. Therefore, he got married only at the age of fifty-five. Berzelius died without issue or scientific dynasty.