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René-Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur


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(1683–1757) French entomologist, physicist, and metallurgist

Born at La Rochelle in western France, Réaumur traveled to Paris in 1703 and was admitted to the French Academy of Sciences in 1708. He was commissioned by Louis XIV (1710) to compile a report on the industry and arts of France, published as the Description des arts et métiers (Description of the Arts and Skilled Trades).

Réaumur made contributions to many branches of science and industry. He developed improved methods for producing iron and steel; the cupola furnace for melting gray iron was first built by him (1720). In 1740 he produced an opaque form of porcelain, still known as Réaumur porcelain. Perhaps his greatest individual achievement was the six-volume Memoires pour servir à l'histoire des insectes (1734–42; Memoirs Serving as a Natural History of Insects), the first serious and comprehensive entomological work.

Réaumur also devised a thermometer (1731), using a mixture of alcohol and water, with its freezing point of water at 0° and its boiling point at 80° (the Réaumur temperature scale). Through his research into digestion he established that this was a chemical rather than a mechanical process and he isolated gastric juice in 1752.

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