Nicolas Leblanc, French chemist and inventor, c 1800.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Statue of Nicolas Leblanc (1742-1806), inventor of the Leblanc proces for the manufacture of soda. Leblanc became physician to the future Duke of Orleans in 1780. Interested in chemistry, the duke encouraged Leblanc to enter the French Academy of Science's 1775 competition to devise a new proces for making sodium carbonate. Leblanc succesfully achieved this using salt and sulphuric acid but never received his prize. In 1791 the Duke of Orleans commisioned a factory for its production but when he was sent to the guillotine two years later the factory was confiscated. Despite the factory being returned to Leblanc in 1802 by Napoleon Leblanc could not afford to meet costs and committed suicide in 1806.