The discovery of cellulose.


It is the “main polysaccharide in living plants, forming the skeletal structure of the plant cell wall”[1] with the formula C6H10O5. It is used in the manufacture of paper and textiles[1].


The French chemist Anselme Payen discovered cellulose in 1838. In his 1838 publication[2] he wrote about dissolving ligneous (of or resembling wood) matter in nitric acid, potash and various other solvents and obtaining a precipitate which he thought “fills the cells and which constitutes the true ligneous matter”. Payen also determined the chemical formula of this newfound substance and noted that it was the same as that of starch. Here is a photograph[3] of pure cellulose:

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Here is a photograph[4] of Anselme Payen:

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  2., pages 21-31.

8 thoughts on “The discovery of cellulose.”

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