(1774 - 1830)
(Born: Ballycommon, near Dublin, Ireland, 1774; Died: Paris, France, 5 April 1830) Irish chemist & mineralogist.
Of Huguenot ancestry, Chenevix was educated at the University of Glasgow. Soon thereafter, in 1801, he published an analysis of a new variety of lead ore [=anglesite] and of various arsenates of copper. The publication of Remarks upon Chemical Nomenclature, According to the Principles of the French Neologists (London, 1802) built him a reputation as an expert in the field. In this same time, he also built a reputation for viciously attacking the German school of Naturphilosophie, which won him some enemies. In 1803, an anonymous handbill was circulated among British scientists. It announced the discovery of a new chemical element called palladium. Chenevix, believing the substance to be a complex alloy purchased the entire stock and began experimenting. Subsequently, he reported to the Royal Society that palladium was simply a mixture of platinum and mercury. Soon after, Wollaston announced himself the author of the handbill and discoverer of two new elements, palladium and rhodium. After it was shown that these were infact new elements, Chenevix's reputation was badly damaged. Subsequently, he emmigrated to France, where he became a disciple of Haüy. In later years, Chenevix wrote several novels, plays, and books of poems. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.
Biographical references: Allibone, Dictionary of English Literature, 1859-71. Barr, Index to Biographical Fragments, 1973: 48. BBA: I 225, 172-180; II 1381, 369. Dean, P.A.W., "The `synthetic' palladium of Richard Chenevix: A verdict on the chemist and the chemistry", Ambix: Journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry, 26, (1979), 100-115. Dictionary of Irish Biography. DNB. DSB: 3, 232-3 [by H.A.M. Snelders]. Hayes, R., Biographical dictionary of Irishmen in France. Dublin, 1949. ISIS, 1913-65: 1, 250. Poggendorff: 1, cols. 428-9. Reilley, D., "Richard Chenevix (1774-1830) and the Discovery of Palladium", Journal of Chemical Education, 32, (1955), 37-9. Usselman, M.C., "The Wollaston-Chenevix controversy over the elemental nature of palladium: A curious episode in the history of chemistry", Annals of Science, 35, (1978), 551-579. WBI. Webb, Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878. White, A.M. and H.B. Friedman, "On the Discovery of Palladium", Journal of Chemical Education, 9, (1932), 236-45. World Who's Who in Science: 326.
1. English, 1811.
Observations | On | Mineralogical Systems. | By Richard Chenevix, ESQ. F.R.S. &c. | Translated From The French, | By A Member Of The Geological Society. | [double rule] | To Which Are Now Added, | Remarks | By Mr. Chenevix | On | The Reply Of M. D'Aubuisson | To The Above | Observations. | [double rule] | London: | Printed For J. Johnson And Co. | St. Paul's Church-Yard. | 1811.
8°: π4 B-K4 L2; 74l.; [i]-viii, -138,  p.
Page size: 230 x 140 mm.
Contents: [i-ii], Half title page, "Observations | On | Minealogical Systems," verso "Printed by C. Wood, | Poppin's Court, Fleet Street, London."; [iii-iv], Title page, verso blank. [v]-viii, "Advertisement | Of The Translator."; 1-124, Text.; -138, "Remarks | upon an | Answer of M.r D'Aubuisson | To The | Preceding Observations."; [1 pg], "Printed by C. Wood, | Poppin's Court, Fleet Street, London."; [1 pg], Blank.
Very scarce. First separate edition. Originally published as "Suite des Réflexions sur quelques méthodes minéralogiques," in the Annales de Chemie [see: 65 (1808), pp. 225-276], when Chenevix returned to England he was asked to prepare a translation. He declined, but offered assistance to anyone that would be willing to persue the work. A member of the Geological Society [who??] took up the challange, and work on the translation began. However, about the time the manuscript was ready for the press, another translation began appearing in serialized form in the Philosophical Magazine [see: ?? (18??) pp. ???-???]. This almost derailed the publication of the Observations, but it was decided that the other translation was inadequate, and so publication proceeded, although it would appear that not many copies were printed.
The text takes the form of a point/counter-point discussion of the merits between the mineralogical theories of Haüy and Werner. Although purporting to be objective in its discussion, Chenevix is prejudiced to the Haüyian view of mineralogy. An additional section has been included where Chenevix rebutts the criticisms of D'Aubuisson, a Werner disciple, against the original article.
Bibliographical references: Duveen, Bibliotheca Alchemica et Chemica, 1965: p. 132. NUC.