Henri Moissan was born in Paris on September 28, 1852. His advanced education began in the College de Meaux and later in the Edmond Fremy's laboratory at the Musee d'Histoire Naturelle, where he attended lectures by E. H. Sainte-Claire Deville and Henri Debray. He was appointed to a junior position in the Agronomic Institute in 1879 and he gained his doctoral degree in 1880 with a thesis on the cyanogen series.
Moissan's first researches concerned the interchange of oxygen and
carbon dioxide in the leaves of plants. He was soon to leave biology
for the field of inorganic chemistry, where his early work was on the
oxides of iron-group metals and chromium and a study of the chromous
salts. In 1884 he turned his attention to fluorine chemistry, preparing
some organic and phosphorous derivatives of that element. The following
year he discovered that solutions of potassium fluoride in hydrogen
fluoride at certain strengths remained liquid and conducted electrolytically
at sub-zero temperatures. A year later he successfully electrolyzed
these solutions to isolate fluorine for the first time. He made a full
study of the properties of the gas and its reactions with other elements.
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