Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac


Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac : biography

06 December 1778 – 09 May 1850

Gay-Lussac was a great teacher who could recount his thoughts simply and understandably without established at that time pompous phrases. Simplicity and intelligibility was a distinctive feature of all his scientific works. He widely used mathematics in his lectures and articles, this mathematical knowledge he got in the Polytechnic school in youth.

Besides French Gay-Lussac spoke Italian, English and German very well. A good memory allowed him to make lectures using his own words without written text on paper despite established tradition at that time.

Personal life

His wife Josephina’s father was a teacher in the musical school in Auxerre, a widower who brought up three daughters. In 1791 the school closed and family was in big want. Josephina, the elder sister started to work in a linen shop where he accidently met Gay-Lussac. As people who knew Ga-Lussac well claimed, when they met she was a well-educated and intelligent girl, he read chemical treatise and it was a reason of their acquaintance.

Some time later Gay-Lussac received consent of marriage and sent a bride to the boarding school so that she could finish her education. After marriage Gay-Lussac lived with Josephina for forty years, he was very happy in family life and died on her hands in 1850.


Gay-Lussac had a great health but he suffered from injuries’ consequences which he got while making chemical experiments. On the 3 of June in 1808 he got bur of both eyes after explosion during experiments with potassium. For a year he couldn’t bear bright light and till the end of his life his eyes remained, as his wife said, “red and weak”.

In the last years of life Gay-Lussac got a serious injury of a hand after explosion of glass vessel with gas hydrocarbon. Some doctors considered this injury to be the reason of his death which followed in several years.

Interesting facts

A great chemist and teacher of Gay-Lussac Bertholet who died in 1822 bequeathed to his student a sword of a French peer and nobody doubted that Gay-Lussac would become a member of the chamber of peers. But Gay-Lussac’s election procrastinated for long years because according to conceptions of that time it didn’t become a French peer to have hand labour.

A discovery of gas laws was an impulse for Amadeo Avogadro for making active experiments and it led to discovery of Avogadro constant.