Charles Gerhardt was a French chemist born in Strasbourg on August 21, 1816. He first worked as a chemist with Otto Erdmann at the Business School in Leipzig (Germany). After short periods working for his father’s lead factory and the cavalry, he returned to school in 1936, studying chemistry under the guidance of Professor Liebig. He moved to Paris in 1838 where, thanks to the recommendation of Prof. Liebig, he followed the courses taught by Jean-Baptiste Dumas and worked with Auguste Cahours on essential oils (such as cumin) in the laboratory of Michel Eugene Chevreul. At that time, he earned a precarious living by teaching and translating some of Prof. Liebig’s notes.
In 1841, through the influence of Prof. Dumas he obtained the chair of chemistry at the Faculty of Science in Montpellier and was a full professor there from 1844 until 1851. Charles Gerhardt left Montpellier in 1848 for Paris, where he created a School of Practical Chemistry that did not attain any real success. In 1855, he joined the Faculty of Sciences and Polytechnique School in Strasbourg and died one year later on the 19th of August.
Charles Gerhardt’s major achievements were the synthesis of anhydric acids, especially the synthesis of acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin). With his colleague Auguste Laurent (1807–1953), he contributed to the modernization of the methods of chemical formulation by insisting on the distinction between atoms, molecules, and equivalents. Charles Gerhardt introduced the concept of “function” in organic chemistry. Gerhardt’s most important writings are the “Précis de Chimie Organique (1844–1845)” and the “Traité de Chimie Organique (1853–1856)”.
1833–1834: Leipzig (1st thesis), then Researcher Assistant in Prof. Liebig’s group.
1841: Ph.D. Thesis at the Botanical Garden (Jardin des Plantes).
1841–1848: Lecturer at the Faculty of Sciences in Montpellier.
1848–1853: Head of the School of Chemistry in Paris.
1854: Professor at the School of Pharmacy and Faculty of Sciences in Strasbourg.