Carl Wilhelm Scheele - His Life and Scientific Achievements


  • Stig Ekstro Medical Historical Museum in Uppsala Uppsala - Sweden


Carl Wilhelm Scheele


 Carl Wilhelm Scheele must be regarded as one of Sweden greatest chemists. He was born in 1742 in Stralsund, where he grew up in a family well-known in northern Germany since the 15th century. He chose the pharmaceutical profession early and was only 15 years old when he left his home town for educational studies at the Unicorn pharmacy in Gothenburg in Sweden. The apothecary there, Martin Andreas Bauch, was a native of Mecklenburg with good relations to the Scheele family. Scheele came to stay in Sweden for the rest of his life and since 1775 he worked as an apothecary in the small town of Köping. In Sweden Scheele established a close friendship with Torbern Bergman, in his time one of the most leading chemists, and the friendship was a prerequisite for Scheele’s breakthrough as a scientific writer. His first paper was published in 1771 and was followed by another thirty publications. Scheele’s major work was “ Chemische Abhandlung von der Luft und Feuer”, where he describes the discovery of oxygen. Scheele remained a pharmacist and was working most of his time as an apothecary in Köping. However, he became early accepted as a scientist with an internationally good reputation. He was elected as a member of several academic societies. During his life he discovered seven elements – more than any other chemist has detected - and most of his about 20.000 laboratory notes have still not been examined. He died only 43 years old. He is buried in Köping. On his gravestone we can admire a statue of a torch-carrying genius.