Stanislao Cannizzaro

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Stanislao Cannizzaro

Born13 July 1826 (1826-07-13)
Died10 May 1910 (1910-05-11) (aged 83)
Known forCannizzaro reaction
AwardsFaraday Lectureship Prize (1872)
Copley Medal (1891)
Scientific career

Stanislao Cannizzaro FRS (/ˌkænɪˈzɑːr/ KAN-iz-AR-oh,[1] also US: /-ɪtˈsɑːr-/ -⁠it-SAR-,[2] Italian: [staniˈzlaːo kannitˈtsaːro]; 13 July 1826 – 10 May 1910) was an Italian chemist. He is famous for the Cannizzaro reaction and for his influential role in the atomic-weight deliberations of the Karlsruhe Congress in 1860.[3]


Cannizzaro was born in Palermo in 1826.[4] He entered the university there with the intention of making medicine his profession, but he soon turned to the study of chemistry. In 1845 and 1846, he acted as assistant to Raffaele Piria (1815–1865), known for his work on salicin, and who was then professor of chemistry at Pisa and subsequently occupied the same position at Turin.[5]

During the Sicilian revolution of independence of 1848, Cannizzaro served as an artillery officer at Messina and was also chosen deputy for Francavilla in the Sicilian parliament; and, after the fall of Messina in September 1848, he was stationed at Taormina. On the collapse of the insurgents, Cannizzaro escaped to Marseille in May 1849, and, after visiting various French towns, reached Paris in October. There he gained an introduction to Michel Eugène Chevreul's laboratory, and in conjunction with F.S. Cloez (1817–1883) made his first contribution to chemical research, in 1851, when they prepared cyanamide by the action of ammonia on cyanogen chloride in ethereal solution. In the same year, Cannizzaro accepted an appointment at the National College of Alessandria, Piedmont as professor of physical chemistry. In Alessandria, he discovered that aromatic aldehydes are decomposed by an alcoholic solution of potassium hydroxide into a mixture of the corresponding acid and alcohol.[6] For example, benzaldehyde decomposes into benzoic acid and benzyl alcohol, the Cannizzaro reaction.[5]

In the autumn of 1855, Cannizzaro became professor of chemistry at the University of Genoa, and, after further professorships at Pisa and Naples, he accepted the chair of inorganic and organic chemistry at Palermo. There, he spent ten years studying aromatic compounds and continuing to work on amines, until in 1871 when he was appointed to the chair of chemistry at the University of Rome.[5]

Apart from his work on organic chemistry, which includes also an investigation of santonin, Cannizzaro rendered great service to chemistry with his 1858 paper Sunto di un corso di Filosofia chimica, or Sketch of a course of chemical philosophy, in which he insisted on the distinction, previously hypothesized by Amadeo Avogadro, between atomic and molecular weights.[7][8][9] Cannizzaro showed how the atomic weights of elements contained in volatile compounds can be deduced from the molecular weights of those compounds, and how the atomic weights of elements of whose compounds the vapour densities are unknown can be determined from a knowledge of their specific heats. For these achievements, of fundamental importance to atomic theory, he was awarded the Copley Medal by the Royal Society in 1891.[5]

In 1871, Cannizzaro's scientific eminence secured him admission to the Italian senate,[10] of which he was vice-president,[11] and as a member of the Council of Public Instruction and in other ways he rendered important services to the cause of scientific education in Italy.[5]

He is best known for his contribution to the then-existing debate over atoms, molecules, and atomic weights. He championed Avogadro's law that equal volumes of gas at the same pressure and temperature held equal numbers of molecules or atoms, and the notion that equal volumes of gas could be used to calculate atomic weights. In doing so, Cannizzaro provided a new understanding of chemistry.[12]


Sketch of a course of chemical philosophy (English translation of Sunto di un corso di filosofia chimica), 1947
  • Sunto di un corso di filosofia chimica, Genova, 1858
    • Sketch of a course of chemical philosophy. Edinburgh: Livingstone. 1947.
  • Scritti intorno alla teoria molecolare ed atomica ed alla notazione chimica, "Lo Statuto" (Palermo), 1896, available at Gallica.
  • Scritti vari e lettere inedite nel centenario della nascita, Roma, 1926

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cannizzaro, Stanislao". Lexico UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 2 September 2022.
  2. ^ "Cannizzaro reaction". Dictionary. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  3. ^ Ihde, Aaron J. (1961). "The Karlsruhe Congress: A Centennial Retrospective". Journal of Chemical Education. 38 (2): 83–86. Bibcode:1961JChEd..38...83I. doi:10.1021/ed038p83. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 24 August 2007.
  4. ^ "Stanislao Cannizzaro". Science History Institute. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Cannizzaro, Stanislao". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 5 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 188.
  6. ^ Cannizzaro, S. (1853). "Ueber den der Benzoësäure entsprechenden Alkohol" [On the alcohol corresponding to benzoic acid]. Liebigs Annalen der Chemie und Pharmacie. 88: 129–130. doi:10.1002/jlac.18530880114.
  7. ^ Cannizzaro, Stanislao (1858). Il Nuovo cimento (in Italian). Vol. 7. Società italiana di fisica. pp. 321–366.
  8. ^ de Milt, Clara (1951). "The Congress at Karlsruhe". Journal of Chemical Education. 28 (8): 421–425. Bibcode:1951JChEd..28..421D. doi:10.1021/ed028p421. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 29 August 2007.
  9. ^ Hartley, Harold (1966). "Stanislao Cannizzaro, F.R.S. (1826–1910) and the First International Chemical Conference at Karlsruhe". Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London. 21: 56–63. doi:10.1098/rsnr.1966.0006. S2CID 58453894.
  10. ^ "Scheda senatore CANNIZZARO Stanislao". Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  11. ^ For an intervention by him in the Presidency Council of the Senate, see Giampiero Buonomo, Il "piccolo Senato": un caso di paronimia giuridica?, MemoriaWeb – Trimestrale dell'Archivio storico del Senato della Repubblica – n.30 (Nuova Serie), giugno 2020, p. 8.
  12. ^ "Stanislao Cannizzaro – Chemistry Encyclopedia – reaction, water, elements, gas, number, molecule, atom". Retrieved 19 January 2019.

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