French chemist Jean Baptiste Boussingault coined chemical compound sorbitol

Jean Baptiste Boussingault – pioneer in agrochemistry

Article on Jean Baptiste Boussingault

Biography & contributions

Jean Baptiste Boussingault was a French chemist born on February 02, 1802 – died on May 12, 1887. Boussingault was well known chemist in the fields of agricultural science, petroleum science and metallurgy.

He discovered nitrogen is essential to plants and animals. Boussingault proved that plants derive carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide. He isolated and named chemical compound as sorbitol.

Boussingault made interesting contributions to the controversy over the metabolic question whether the animal body can convert carbohydrates to fat. His work included papers on the quantity of nitrogen in different foods, the amount of gluten in different wheats, investigations on the question whether plants can assimilate free nitrogen from the atmosphere.


Gluten is protein composite found in wheat and related grains, including barley and rye. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keeps its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture. Gluten is used in cosmetics, hair products, and other dermatological preparations. Gluten is the composite of a gliadin and a glutenin, which is conjoined with starch in the endosperm of various grass-related grains. Gluten forms when glutenin molecules cross-link to form a sub-microscopic network attached to gliadin, which contributes viscosity and extensibility to the mix.


Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol with a sweet taste which the human body metabolizes slowly. It can be obtained by reduction of glucose, changing the aldehyde group to a hydroxyl group. Sorbitol is made from corn syrup, but it is also found in apples, pears, peaches, and prunes. It is converted to fructose by Sorbitol-6-phosphate 2-dehydrogenase. Sorbitol is an isomer of mannitol, another sugar alcohol. Sorbitol often is used in modern cosmetics as a humectants and thickener. Sorbitol often is used in mouthwash and toothpaste. It is also used as humectants in some cigarettes. Sorbitol is identified as a potential key chemical intermediate for production of fuels from biomass resources.

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