Fausto Elhuyar

Fausto de Elhuyar (11 October 1755 – 6 February 1833) was a Spanish Basque chemist, and the joint discoverer of tungsten with his brother Juan José Elhuyar in 1783. Fausto de Elhuyar was in charge, under a King of Spain commission, of organizing the School of Mines in México City and so was responsible of building an architectural jewel known as "Palacio de Minería". Elhuyar abandoned Mexico after the Mexican War of Independence, when most of the Spanish residents in Mexico were expelled.

He was born in Logroño, son of French born Basque parents from Hasparren (Labourd) , and died in Madrid.

Between 1773 and 1777, Elhúyar studied medicine, surgery and chemistry, as well as mathematics, physics and natural history with his brother Juan José Elhuyar in Paris. After graduating, he returned to Spain, where he exercised himself in the study of mineralogy, specially that of the Basque Country and Navarre, where he resided. In 1781, he was appointed a member of the Real Sociedad Bascongada de Amigos del Pais (Royal Basque Society of Friends to the Country), an enlightened institution thanks to which he started teaching as professor of mineralogy and metallurgics in Vergara, the seat of both the Vascongada Society and the University of Vergara (nowadays merged within the University of the Basque Country). Along this years, he started publishing numerous articles and dossiers about minerals, ways to extract and purify them, etc, that made him famous all along Europe as one of the top experts on those issues. He started working in the Laboratorium Chemicum of Vergara along with François Chavaneau, with whom he was the first to purify platinum. In the autumn of 1780, after several months, he was the first person to discover and isolate tungsten, of which he's credited, along with his brother Juan José, as its discoverer. He also collaborated with Joseph-Louis Proust, the famous french chemist at the service of king Charles IV of Spain, who directed the National Laboratory in Segovia.

In 1783, he visited several European universities, such as the School of Mines of Freiberg, at which he lectured on metallurgy and mine machinery; the University of Uppsala, where he collaborated with Torbern Olof Bergman; and Köping, where he visited Carl Wilhelm Scheele, the one who announced Elhúyar's discovery of tungsten, and for some reason is credited for being made by him himself.

After his return to Spain, in 1785 he renounced to his professorship and, in July 1786, he was appointed General Director of Minery in México. Before departing to his new office, he toured Europe again from 1786 to 1788 in order to study Born's method on the refinery of silver. During this trip, he married Joan Raab in Vienna, in 1787. For the next thirty three years, he resided in México City, where he founded the city's School of Mines (January 1, 1792), and commissioned and directed the construction of that institution's seat, the Palacio de Minería in Mexico City, which was finished in 1813 and it's considered as one of the jewels of the American neoclassicism. He also visited and improved several of the existing Royal Mines of Mexico, dramatically increasing their productivity due to the introduction of new methods of exploitation.

After the Mexican Revolution, he returned back to Spain, where, due to his wide experience and knowledge of modern minery methods, he was appointed Minister of Minery in 1822, and supervised the modern mining of those mines in Almadén, Guadalcanal, and Río Tinto. After falling from his ministry, he was appointed yet again General Director of Minery, and resumed his research activities in chemistry from this quieter office till his death in Madrid on January 6, 1833.

* Joan M. Eyles (1956). "Fausto de Elhuyar (1755-1833), a Spanish mining geologist". Geological Magazine 93 (2): 175–180. doi:10.1017/S0016756800066486. http://geolmag.geoscienceworld.org/cgi/content/abstract/93/2/175.

External links

* Fausto de Elhuyar at the Catholic Encyclopedia

List of chemists

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